I consider myself borderline audiophile, though, I wouldn’t say “full fledged”. My wallet prevents such ventures. But for all intents and purposes, I love personal audio. Whether it be mp3 players or headphones, I’m on it. Trying out headphones of all price ranges is always something to take pleasure in. So when RHA asked us to check out their new MA450i in-ear phones (a slight upgrade from their entry-level MA350 which we reviewed – and loved – earlier this year), we jumped. The MA350s, we think, are a steal at only $30. They are by far the best sounding in-ear phones south of a Benjamin. Can the slightly better, slightly more expensive ($40) MA450 improve upon their much loved sibling?
From the outside, not much has changed from the 350 to the 450. In fact, you’d probably look over the two pairs side-by-side and write them off as the same pair of headphones. But there is one important outward change – a mic. The MA450s now back an in-line mic for true, 100% iPhone compatibility. Stop taking your headphones out to make/receive a call. It’s a minor addition but a highly welcome one. The other minor change – a longer cable.
Outside of the new mic, the rest of the changes reside on the inside. According to RHA, the drivers inside the ear pieces have been tweaked slightly. In A-B testing with the 350s we still have in-house, we can confirm that the 450s do indeed sound slightly better. Now, many people probably won’t notice the change. Truth be told, we weren’t sure we noticed anything at first at all. But after running through a wide range of genres and artists through our ears, it became apparent that the 450s are in fact a nice, albeit small step ahead of the 350s. Highs seem to be slightly less harsh and mid-range tones are generally slightly less forward. The upper base range also seems to be a little more subdued, which is nice. Finally bass extension is just as deep (maybe a touch more-so) than the 350s.
In many of our favorite dubstep songs we enjoyed each and every drop that would leave pretty much all < $100 in-ear phones in shame. Likewise, the highs and separation offered by the MA450s make complex songs from artists such as Linkin Park, DMB, Muse and Radiohead sound downright awesome. The entire soundstage offered by the MA450s is greater than their $40 would lead onto, too. Material by artists such as M83, Massive Attack and Sigur Rós was airy and ambient as ever.
The sound quality of the MA450s is untouched anywhere near it in terms of price. On top of the awesome sound and newly included iPhone compatibility, the sheer number of included ear tips is huge plus. Literally any ear type will find a plug that comfortably fits. And after all, getting a good seal is incredibly important with in-ear phones like the MA450s.
After a solid month of using the MA450s we can’t recommend them enough. If you’ve got an i-Device user in your life and think they’ll enjoy the added in-line mic as well as the slight bump in audio quality, the MA450s are a great gift idea. Speaking of which, it is that time of year. Stocking stuffer, anyone?