Tuesday, April 30, 2013

RHA MA 350 Earphone Review

RHA MA 350's
I would like to first preface this review with a big thank you to RHA for sending out their MA 350's for review, especially considering how fast they arrived.  I also want to state that this review is absolutely, 100% my true opinion on the MA 350's.  I am being totally and completely honest about how I personally feel these headphones perform. The RHA MA 350's are overall a very refined earphone with a few minor rough edges.  They combine exceptional build quality, superbly machined aluminum driver enclosures and a clean minimalistic aesthetic approach that I absolutely love.  The sound is relatively impressive as well with a sparkly clear upper register and a surprisingly present and refined lower end.  Priced at $40 U.S. dollars, there are only a few other earphones in the MA 350's price range that match the price to performance ratio of the MA 350's, and they typically don't have machined aluminum driver enclosures! So without further ado, lets get into the nitty gritty of what these headphones bring to the table.

The MA 350's packaging is what I consider to be standard earphone packaging, it was more than sufficient in protecting the MA 350's enclosed within.  Included in the packaging is of course, the MA 350's themselves, three sets of silicon ear tips, small, medium and large respectively.  A nice little carrying pouch is also included, which in my opinion is to be expected with any $30+ dollar pair of headphones/ earphones.

As stated earlier, the RHA MA 350's driver enclosures are manufactured from machined aluminum and consist of a two tone silver and black color scheme.  RHA states on their website that the design for the MA 350's was inspired by the "aerophonic design of a trumpet bell" which I believe results in a very elegant and simplistic design. The MA 350's are absolutely the best built earphones that I have ever used in this price bracket.  The MA 350's feature a 1.2m braided fabric cable (think of the fabric cables used on higher end gaming mice and gaming keyboards) that has the positive effect of increasing durability and reducing tangling, however it does have the undesirable effect of an extreme level of cable noise that I will go into later.  The MA 350's also feature a 3.5mm gold plated connector. With gold being connectors being pretty common place even in lower end earphones these days, this is a nice but relatively unremarkable feature.  I like the inclusion of rubber where the cable meets the driver housing as well as the inclusion of the strain relief rubber where the cable meets the 3.5mm connector.  While only time will truly tell how the MA 350's hold up against use, these features coupled with the solid driver housing design and braided fabric cable increase my confidence in the MA 350's level of durability.  The MA 350's also have an extremely impressive three year warranty. As far as I am concerned this is practically unheard of for earphones in this price range. Circling back to the cable noise issue, I found that the while the braided fabric cable reduced tangling it also has the unfortunate side effect of a massive amount of cable noise.  This issue is one of the two total main issues that I have with these earphones.  You know that the cable noise is excessive when you blast Radiohead at ear splitting volumes and you can still hear the swish swishing sound of the fabric cable as it makes contact with well... anything.  I do not know whether it is possible to rectify excessive cable noise issues by modyfying the preexisting fabric cable, or if the fabric cable needs to be substituted with a more traditional rubber one.  All I know is that these are the first pair of earphones that I have used that feature a fabric cable and I am not impressed with the cable noise issue.  I would rather sacrifice having my earphones be tangle free than sacrifice sound quality due to cable noise.

Simply because many people so often request it, I will give a brief overview of the RHA MA 350's technical specifications.  Keep in mind however that product specifications do not always directly correlate to how well a product will perform especially in the case of headphones.  Nevertheless, the RHA 350's feature a fairly sizable 10mm mylar driver, a frequency response of 16-22,000Hz, a very low 16Ohm impedance and a sensitivity of 103dB.  I can confirm that the MA 350's are capable of being played at extremely loud volumes with minimal power input.  In other words, you wont have to crank up the volume slider on your laptop or portable device very much in order to achieve a loud volume level.  While earphones like the MA 350's are typically very easy to drive, the MA 350's really seem to be capable of playing at louder volumes than most other comparable earphones.  That being said, be careful not to turn them up too loud as they are capable of absolutely thrashing your ears.

The sound signature of the RHA MA 350's is a healthy reprieve from the sound signature that typically accompanies earphones in the $40 to $50 dollar price bracket.  I too often find that many comparable earphones produce either bloated sound signatures that attempt at satisfying the all to common "bass head"mentality or they lack bass altogether.  The MA 350's produce a detailed sound signature consisting of crystal clear, sparking highs and a well defined bottom end that is completely devoid any degree of bloated or muddy bass.  The MA 350's upper range is commendable because RHA was able to achieve a crystal clear sparkly sound signature while simultaneously keeping the sibilance to a minimum.  The MA 350's are very good at reproducing trance and EDM style electronic music, but remain balanced enough to perform well in any genre of music.  I think its safe to say that the MA 350's are a "bright" headphone overall due to their sparkly higher frequencies, but at the same time they do not lack in the bass department either.  Even so, I find the MA 350 sound signature extremely likable. If I had one gripe with the MA 350's in regards to sound quality, it would be that the mid range is only ever so slightly recessed.  Of the lower and upper ranges, the mid range is also least defined.  Despite this minor issue, its merely a small blip on the radar when you factor in the entire scope of the MA 350's audio quality bliss.  One final area that I found particularly surprising was the MA 350's extremely low range from the 60 to 30Hz range.  I performed a frequency range test spanning all the way from 20Hz to 20,000Hz and was impressed with the MA 350's sub bass performance especially when you consider the fact that the MA 350's are merely a mid level earbud type design.  Additionally, the MA 350's performed surprisingly well with bass heavy music, although the sparkly upper register would likely turn off the average bass head.  The soundstage on the MA 350's isn't spectacular nor is the instrument separation.  However, this tends to be a common thing with earphones in this price range and in that regard I would place the MA 350s as slightly above average.

The RHA MA 350's are a serious contender in a price range typically inhabited by a few gems and a plethora of average to sub average earphones.  My absolute favorite part about the earphones is their ability to reproduce an upper range that truly shines while avoiding annoying sibilance that detracts from female vocalists, symbol hits and soprano brass instruments (such as the trumpet) as well as the overall sound quality of the track.  I should also mention that the MA 350's are extremely effective at reproducing the sharp, staccato brass hits of up tempo jazz while also effectively reproducing the fragile and intricate sound of the violin in classical music.  If you haven't gotten the picture by now, I find the MA 350's upper range truly spectacular!  The biggest gripe that I have with the MA 350's has to be the cable noise.  I am extremely nit picky when it comes to having the absolute best sound possible and perhaps I am overreacting, but the cable noise is a bit of a detractor for me.  Maybe it's just because I really couldn't find a major fault anywhere else but I find the microphonic's bothersome.  The build quality of the MA 350's however is absolutely amazing, so kudos to RHA for the clean and elegant design.  Me and whoever designed the look of these earphones obviously think alike because I am a sucker for minimalistic and simplistically designed products and the MA 350's achieve just that.  All in all and despite the cable noise issue, I received a very positive vibe from the MA 350's.  Sitting at the $40 dollar price point, I definitely put them in my recommended list.  Be sure to check out the links below to RHA's website and the Amazon product page and as always, thanks for reading.

CLICK HERE for RHA MA 350 Product Page
CLICK HERE for RHA MA 350 Amazon Product Page



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