Saturday, June 29, 2013

RHA SA950i On-Ear Headphone Review

RHA SA950i's
The RHA SA950i on-ears represent RHA's most expensive headset (as of this writing) pricing in at still reasonable $60 dollars full retail.  The RHA SA950i's bring a few nice to see features to the table for being a relatively cheap set of headphones, such as the inclusion of an iDevice compatible volume and microphone control on the included detachable cloth cable.  The SA950i's also sport 40mm titanium coated drivers which I am surprised to see as most on ear headphones of this size typically utilize smaller, 30mm driver units. The RHA SA950i's are also an extremely lightweight pair of headphones, however this fact unfortunately does not translate to increased comfort which is something I will get into a bit later.  Overall however, the RHA has brought a relatively competitive product to the market with the SA-950i's.

Not much in the way of accessories is included with the RHA SA950i's, although this is to be expected with a pair of $60 dollar on-ears.  Included in the box is the headphones themselves and the detachable cloth cable.  Other than some literature, that's all you get.  I found the RHA SA950i's build to be a tad bit disappointing.  I suppose I was wrongly expecting a similar level of build quality to the RHA MA350i's.  All things considered the build isn't horrible but at the same token I felt like the plastic teardrop shaped ear cups were constructed out of some pretty chintzy plastic.  On the topic of the ear cups, consumers will notice that the black plastic is extremely glossy.  While this can add aesthetic appeal, I can confirm that the glossy plastic is predictably a fingerprint/ scratch magnet, so for those people who like to hastily toss their headsets into bags or backpacks, be warned:  Your RHA SA950i's will end up scratched.  In addition to this issue, the ear cups have an annoying tendency of coming detached from the chrome wire frames that hold them in place and these wire frames also like to scratch the aforementioned glossy plastic. I will say that I liked the fashion in which the headband is constructed as well as the materials used.  The ear pads are adequate but due to the on ear nature of these headphones they do become uncomfortable for me after only about two hours of usage, however I have historically had comfort issues with on-ear headphones so this issue could just be limited to me.  I will inject some personal preference here and state that I don't really care for the SA950i's aesthetically.  I feel that they are an attempt to mimic the Skullcandy Aviator headphones aesthetically and I don't much care for the flashy chrome accents. I do realize that aesthetics are very preferential so I will leave it up to you as to whether or not you like the way they look. The included iDevice compatible remote and mic is one of the nicest that I have ever seen on headphones in this price bracket and even more expensive ones. Overall I would describe the build as adequate and the comfort as adequate as well. Two final minor gripes that I have with the build is that although the cloth cable is supposed to prevent tangling, I noticed that it often gets into annoying knots very easily and the headphones also do not fold up or become more portable in any way, although this isn't a huge issue as the headphones are already very small.

Despite the so far average nature of the SA950i's, the sound quality is one area where I was pleasantly surprised.  Unlike the MA350i earphones that I reviewed from RHA a few months ago, the SA950i's provide a relatively warm and more bass focused sound signature.  The upper range is less bright and sparkly but is still accurate and crisp.  The mid range and bass frequencies are highly emphasized, but due to a slight lack of mid range accuracy and the heavy emphasis listeners are left with a slightly muffled sound signature that is amplified by the ever so slightly bloated bass.  In regards to purely bass impact and depth however, I was surprised by the SA950i's as most on-ear headphones in this price range do not possess bass that extends so deep without significant roll off nor provide so much impact.  I believe that the surprising amount of bass impact and depth that the SA950i's possess can be attributed to RHA's use of 40mm driver units because, as I mentioned earlier, most small on-ears like the SA950i's utilize much smaller 30mm driver units. Sound stage is predictably limited.  I mean, lets be honest here, a $60 dollar pair of on ear headphones isn't going to provide much in the way of instrument separation nor do a great job at revealing the depth and width of sound in a track. Despite this however, I found the sound stage to be above average for on ear headphones in this price range and even a little bit beyond.  The RHA SA950i's are interesting in that they perform very well with certain genres of music and not so well with others.  Electronic and dance music is when area where these headphones fall a bit short, but they conversely perform extremely well with most rock and most acoustic music.  The SA950i's seem to loose some overall definition with more complex, electronic tracks. In all honesty, the SA950i's have been one of the hardest headphones to review in terms of sound quality, simply because of how above average they may sound with one track and how adequate they may sound with another.  Despite the SA950i's relatively minor sound quality flaws, it is by far the best area of the SA950i's and it's main selling point, along with the commendably low price point.

To surmise my thoughts of the RHA SA950i's I would state that the build was passable, the comfort was adequate but not spectacular and the sound signature provides a very pleasing warm texture with great bass depth and impact with only the slightest amounts of muddiness in the extreme low ranges.  Overall, the most impressing part of the RHA SA950i's was the sound signature. For someone looking for a spectacularly priced headphone with a wonderful warranty (3 years) and for someone that is not bothered by the inherent comfort problems that plague almost all on-ear headphones, the RHA SA950i's are a wonderful choice.  In terms of purely sound quality, the SA950i's provide a very good price to performance ratio and I can recommend them truly
on that basis alone.

CLICK HERE for the RHA SA950i Product Page
CLICK HERE for the RHA SA950i Amazon Product Page

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