RHA S500i earphone review: Well-designed pair for a price

RHA S500i

Reid Heath Acoustics, or RHA, is not very well known in the Indian market. Given the budgets typically required for professional audio products, not many consumers are actually willing to experiment with products from unheard-of manufacturers. RHA, a British company whose only products are premium headphones, is a fairly well-recognised name in pro-audio circles.

RHA S500i product photoTheir foray into the Indian market seemed a little ambitious, especially when they announced the T10, and the T20, here in India, priced upwards of Rs.10,000. Reviewers, however, were unanimous in their praise for both products, in spite of the price. The RHA S500i, in comparison, is a budget offering, priced at Rs.3,999. Even so, Rs. 3,999 for a pair of headphones isn’t an amount you’ll see the average consumer shell out easily, at least in India. There are only a discerning few among you, who’d care enough for sound quality to pay that price.

Without the swappable filters that the T10 and the T20 come equipped with, I was curious to see how the RHA S500i would fare. I put it through the paces to find out if the S500i is worth your money.

RHA S500iDesign

Designed to be worn straight in rather than sit over your ears like many of RHA’s other headphones, the S500i is bundled with 6 pairs of dual density ear tips in small, medium, and large sizes, and one pair of small double flange ear tips. So finding a size suited to your ears shouldn’t be difficult.

Its aluminium alloy construction makes it sturdy and lightweight. The 1.35m long two part cable seems durable, and fully capable of withstanding the odd tug here and there. The fabric braided cables don’t tangle very easily. The 3.5mm gold-plated headphone jack too is well constructed, and together with the fabric braided cable, adds a touch of class to the overall appearance of the headphones.

RHA S500iThe right earphone cable has a three-button remote, and a microphone. Designed keeping iOS devices in mind, the S500i’s remote doesn’t work as you would expect it to on Android devices. The volume controls which also allow you to skip a track or select the previous track didn’t work as we hoped it would, on the Android device we used it with. The central button works to play and pause songs. The remote can also be used for handsfree calls using the central button and the pinhole microphone at the back of the remote. The placement of the microphone is suited to taking calls using your phone. However, with it so close to your ear, using the three button remote is tricky without being able to see the controls. With a little getting used to, this shouldn’t be a problem.

Audio quality

The RHA S500i has a micro-dynamic driver powering its sound, which, to be frank, was a little too crisp and bright for my taste. The RHA S500i didn’t do a great job at reproducing bass. Although its frequency response is rated at 16-20000Hz, a small signal frequency test I ran revealed that the lower end sounds are only audible like they should be well after 30Hz, and at that frequency, the reproduced sound was just a little rumble, without depth to the sound.

rhas500i5

While the headphones reproduced mid-bass sounds well, the lower bass sounds were too soft. I thought the sounds of the bass guitar on tracks like ‘Give It Away’ by Red Hot Chili Peppers were a little underwhelming. Cranking up the volume helps with the low-frequencies, but messes up the mid-frequency and high-frequency sounds, making them all too sharp, and almost mildly uncomfortable to listen to.

One track I particularly enjoyed listening to on the S500i was Victor Wooten’s ‘Overjoyed’, a solo bass-guitar track, where the bass guitar largely remains in the mid to high-mid register range. Acoustic guitar tracks are best heard at a volume significantly lower than full. Treble heavy tracks aren’t the S500i’s forte either. I played ‘The Short Drop And The Sudden Stop’ by Exploding Plastix, and the pumped up mids and excessive treble almost ruined it for me. The sound of the snare drum on several tracks sounded crispier than I would’ve liked for it to.

RHA S500iAt this price point, however, the RHA S500i provides you with above average clarity and detail.

Conclusion

The RHA S500i is durable and built to last you a while, clearly. At Rs.3,999, although a worthy upgrade from your bundled in-ears, the RHA S500i has some serious competition.The RHA S500, minus the three-button remote and microphone, costs a thousand bucks less, approximately. Some of our favourites in this price range include the SoundMagic E10s, which retails online at approximately Rs.2000, and if you’re willing to shell out a bit more, there is the Rockjaw Alfa Genus V2 (approximately Rs.5000). The S500i isn’t especially suited for bass-heavy tracks, and works better for a soft and neutral sound.

RHA S500i

7.4

Design

7.9/10

Performance

7.0/10

Value for money

7.2/10

What Is Good?

  • Great build quality
  • Comfortable to wear
  • 7 pairs of ear tips in the box

What Is Bad?

  • Bright sound may not appeal to everyone
  • Sharp mids and treble

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