RHA MA350 Earphones
I got my hands on a pair of RHA MA350 earphones last week and have spent the last few days putting a pair of what are easily the best sub-$50 earphones and among the best sub-$100 earphones I have ever heard through their paces.
I’ve had the pleasure of listening to quite a few pairs of earphones in my time, all over the price spectrum. For the most part, you get what you pay for – but every once in a while you get a nice surprise like the RHA MA350s. I have spent the past week listening to these earphones and am happy to say that they have exceeded my expectations.
For the song list, I stuck to the same lineup as we used to test out the very capable Braven 650 Wireless Bluetooth speaker. I also spent some time testing out the RHA MA350s on FLAC. They excelled at every turn. They outperform a lot of earphones in the $50-100 price range, which is exceptional for a pair that only costs $40.
The test list included, but was not limited to, the following:
Black Sabbath: Sabbath Bloody Sabbath
Amy Winehouse: Tears Dry on Their Own
Jack White: Love Interruption
Portishead: Wandering Star
Leonard Cohen: Famous Blue Raincoat
Tool: You Lied
The Roots: Don’t Say Nuthin’
Peter Tosh: Legalize it
Led Zeppelin: Whole Lotta Love
Bob Marley: Redemption Song
Before we get started, we need to talk expectations. The levels of performance that you expect to see in a pair of $50 earphones differs markedly to that which you would expect to see in a pair of $300 headphones. When you start paying a lot of money for headphones, the differences between the models in terms of quality are a matter of degrees. In the $50-100 space though, things can vary quite widely.
With cheaper earphones things tend to be either bass- or treble-heavy. I found the MA350s to be very pleasantly balanced. They produced very high highs, and respectably low lows. The end result was very satisfying no matter where the song fit on the spectrum. In fact, they performed so well that I found myself looking for tracks that did a better job of testing out their limitations – when Tori Amos and Maynard James Keenan’s Muhammed My Friend didn’t stretch the treble, I turned to Sarah Brightman’s Time to Say Goodbye. At the opposite end of the spectrum, I found myself listening to random dubstep tracks then exploring the complicated electronic and percussive soundscapes of Prodigy’s live performances – at volume. The MA3350s excelled at every turn and the louder things got, the better they became.
FLAC and other lossless codecs did not prove to be an issue. Sound quality with lossless tracks was noticeably crisper.
Design and Comfort
The RHA MA350s are well designed and comfortable to wear, even for extended periods of time. The casing of the earphones is aircraft-grade aluminum, the cord is braided, they have a mic (but no controls), and a little circular bit of plastic that you can use to keep the buds together when they are not in use. They are fairly tangle resistant, not as much as earphones with ribbon cables, but good enough.
They sat comfortably in my ears and did a very good job at blocking out virtually all of the ambient sounds in my home.
What I Loved About Them
The RHA MA350s offer outstanding performance for what they cost. My earphones of choice had been a pair of aging $120 Sony in-ear earphones – these were considerably better and cost a third of the price.
What I Didn’t Like
At times the level of definition proved to be something of a curse. With high bitrate MP3s there was no problem, but at lower bitrates things there was a slight but audible hiss. The level to which this was noticeable varied depending on the track – but it definitely had me wanting to upgrade some of my older tracks. At any rate, this is not really a failure of the speakers so much as it is an indictment of lossy music.
Five out of five stars: at just $40, the RHA MA350 earphones punch well above their weight. If you are looking for an affordable pair of earphones that does not compromise on sound quality – look no further.
What other people are saying
Amazon: 4.3 out of 5
OVERALL Very pleased with sound quality as well as fit and comfort.