The MA450i opens up a spacious sonic landscape that is quite advanced and sophisticated.
MA450i:There's no question that, as we climb higher up in the price ladder, reasonably decent headphones provide - with one or two expensive exceptions perhaps - a listening experience unavailable with earphones. But the thing is that for many who satisfy their music hunger with an iPod or iPhone or iSomething, headphones are not an option. Ask my daughter. Earphones are.
Earphones are handy, sort of, and visually less intrusive. iPods/iPhones are often used outdoor, in the street, in the company, and there matters of style do matter. Ask my daughter. The more invisible the headphone is the better; hence, earphones. To me, however, the hot question was to what extent earphones can provide a similar listening experience than comparable headphones do?
RHA MA450i is a 50 euro, noise isolating dynamic earphones with a remote and a microphone. It's designed iDevice users in mind. It's machined from solid aluminium - not plastic - and houses a 10mm driver. What caught my attention initially was RHA’s signature aerophonic design, which was said to provide "an impressively detailed, well-balanced sound experience".
The term "aerophonics" refers to noise-generating action of wind instruments. The shape, volume of space and build quality all contribute to the aerophonic function (the production and amplification of sound in a volume of air) of an instrument, or in the case of RHA, an earphone.
The traditional earphone shape pushes sound out of the driver into a compact chamber, forcing the sound through a narrow channel and, according to RHA, making it be harsh and muddled. To avoid this - and to realize a sound that is as clear and natural across the audio spectrum - the RHA R&D team decided to follow the model of the aerophonic properties of the bell of a trumpet, the shape which they thought is perfectly designed to channel air and sound efficiently.
In the RHA MA450i, the normal airflow system used in trumpets is inverted, and the air is directed from the widest part of the bell shape to the narrowest. According to RHA, this concentrates sound naturally and allows air to progress unobstructed and unforced from the speaker into the ear. This RHA's signature aerophonic design is hoped to produce clearer and more natural sound than traditional earphones, as well as allowing full and deep bass response.
Well, full and deep bass it was, surprisingly deep and full. For listening experiments I used iPod and a variety of more and less compressed audio files in several formats. From a track to another, the low bass came out in a way it didn't come out from ordinary button earphones nor from my daughter's less than 50 euro headphones: with force and power, sometimes but not too often slightly out of proportion.
More importantly, the overall tonal balance was quite healthy. As compared to standard earphones, the balance of the MA4501 is of the kind that hifi hobbyists are reaching for, meaning that the MA450i didn't do any cheap sonic tricks to attract a quick superficial listener. It didn't, for instance, push the midrange artificially forward to emphasize the compressed nature of compressed music. That might have been fun for kids but not for sound lovers. In fact, I found the midrange a tad laid back in relation both to the low bass and the presence of high treble. That's kind of daring given that most iDevice listeners probably listen to compressed music.
All in all, after having tried standard button earphones and headphones from the same price category as the MA450i, I'd say that the MA450i opens up a spacious sonic landscape that is quite advanced and sophisticated. I fully enjoyed the MA450i's well-balanced reproduction of Beethoven's Fifth, for example. With the cheap button earphones and lesser headphones, the same track sounded dull and two-dimensional. This is not to say that there were no other similarly priced earphones that would perform equally well, it's just that I'm not sufficiently familiar with the supply.
Using the RHA MA450i was mostly trouble-free. They were easy to insert in the ear, and stayed there too. Fit is unlikely to be a problem since seven pairs of soft silicone ear-tip come along. Also, the remote functioned as promised.
Finally, I took a walk close to a heavily trafficked road to check the efficiency of the MA450i's noise isolation system realized with the dual density ear-tips. Soft silicone on the outside is designed to keep external noise out, while firmer silicone on the inside produces a tighter seal to prevent sound leakage. I was quite happy with the way in which the MA450i ignored hundreds of cars passing by. More disturbing was rubbing noise coming from the fabric braided cable: to avoid it completely one needs to stop walking altogether.
The RHA MA450i didn't make me a headphone listener but they proved that fairly good sound is nowadays available also from less expensive earphones. That was a good lesson. My daughter was more indifferent but that's because sound is not on her priority list.
Read the full article at Innerworld Audio
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