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Fast, high-detail headphone for only €200

A Review On: Roland RH-A30 Open Air Headphones

Roland RH-A30 Open Air Headphones

Rated # 248 in Over-Ear
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Review Details:
Audio Quality
Comfort
Design
Value
Purchased on:
Price paid: $200.00
koolas
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Pros: Realistic crystal clear sound, great soundstage, works well with YouTube

Cons: Not for bassheads, reveals all clipping issues

Roland RH-A30 - The Looks
Headphones are basically the same as highly regarded ATH-M50, but there are some differences (I had a chance to have both in my hand and on my head as well). First thing you may have noticed on pictures, there are some shinny elements. The earcups are connected to headband with piece of steel and not with hinges like in ATH-M50. You can also notice metal grill (probably aluminum) on the back of earcups. If you look carefully you will notice air-vents on top of each earcup. The ATH-M50 is mainly black with pleather earpads, while RH-A30 has black-gray headband, and silver earcups.











Headphones come with gray velour carrying bag. There is big jack adapter and it is exactly the same as one in ATH-M50. Actually whole cable looked the same for me.
No picture of packaging, but it's nothing special, just a paper cartoon box with picture of headphones. Nothing transparent, and nothing to be very proud of. I don't mind, because I know I paid for headphones and not for the box.

Music
While writing this review I was listening on Spotify to "Kings Of High Voltage - A Salute to AC/DC" and then Yahel & Liya "I Dive". Besides that I would normally listen to trance music like "Trance 100 - 2013", but I'm not limited to. I love classical stuff like especially conducted by Leopold Stokowski e.g. Dvorak's Symphony No.9 "From the New World" or Wagner's "Tristan und Isolde". With these headphones I also found that I like piano music like Scherzos by F.Chopin's. I got some stuff from HDTracks like "RAM" by Daft Punk, or "Jurassic Park - Anniversary".


Setup
I mainly used headphone output of NAD T744, but I also used one of Lenovo Y580.
Warning: Spoiler! (Click to show)
I connected my sources: Blueray, Xonar and UPC to NAD T744 digital inputs. NAD has only two optical inputs, so one of the devices had to be connected using coax. Unfortunately none of these had coax output, so I bought Nikkai optical-to-coax converter and I chosen to use it with Xonar. I think I have experienced some loss of quality by doing so, however even if so, it is really hard to notice.

I have tried listening directly from NAD headphone output, and listening from headphone out of PMA500 connected to NAD pre-amp outputs. I prefered sound from NAD as it's more clinical and flat, while Denon seems veiled and warm. For me NAD imaging was more accurate and spacious, while Denon blurred everything together.

I also used headphone output of Lenovo Y580. I use it with Linux Mint with Jack and I play music using Audacious or Aqualung. Jack guarantees known sample rate, and then these player programs do high quality SRC (over 140dB SNR). Note if I used PulseAudio SRC would be rather poor.

Unfortunately DAC in NAD only works at 44.1kHz and 48kHz rates, so to play HD tracks I had to resample them. These resampled to 48kHz tracks sounded better on NAD, than original 192kHz ones on Y580.


Sound Quality
This is my very first review, so forgive me if you find my language. Since these headphones are open version of ATH-M50's I'll refer to review of former ones posted by Lunatique.

The ATH-M50 is one of those rare products where the quality/price ratio really hits the sweet spot, and in fact is like a small miracle in the world of pro audio.
Same could be said about RH-A30. In the shop where I bought mine, they were €30 more than ATH-M50's. In my opinion for these extra few bucks you get significantly more detail, more crispiness, so also here price/value ratio is very good.

The M50 pulls off the difficult balance of being neutral, accurate, and detailed while not causing listening fatigue
Roland are my favorite headphones. I almost never go back to any other phones I have. But I admit sometimes I wish they didn't reveal all these clipping issues (it's even on stuff from HDTracks!). If you listen to pop, then these headphones can be very fatiguing at times. The David Guetta's "Nothing but the beat" album for example is completely unbearable, but some of Rihanna's songs sound really nice, just like Rihanna was in my room with me. Electronic music on the other hand sounds just perfect. There could be more power to bass, but it's not a big deal. Actually I like to enjoy richness of mids and crispiness of highs, something that I never heard in any other headphones (even Momentum's if you asked).


One of the most outstanding characteristics of the M50 is its sub-bass extension (50Hz and below), which is both deep and substantial.
Roland's bass is less powerful, but it's extended very deeply, and is presented very accurately, very tight bass. It does not roll off drastically, it's just not so very loud, but it's definitely there. I have mentioned these headphones are great for trance music. It's quite often that headphones have boomy bass, and that is not good for trance, especially not good when there deep bass extension is exercised. On Roland's you have that feeling that music is exactly the way it is supposed to be. Sometimes you may feel you need more bass, and less treble, but there is a viable solution - a TB control in your amp. In most cases you would enjoy natural sound without applying any changes to it.

The mids and the treble are smooth, and the treble never gets gratings like many other headphones. If I must nitpick, I might say that the treble has a tiny hint of metallic timbre when compared to open-back headphones.
Almost same here, but treble are less blurred. By that I'm not saying that ATH-M50's treble are blurred - and they are definitely not! They are very good indeed. But if you compare with Roland you will quickly notice difference, and Roland will rather win this race, but only by few inches smily_headphones1.gif

The soundstage of the M50 is smaller than the average open-cans, because of its sealed design.
And here is where Rolands is superior to ATH-M50, i.e. RH-A30 are open back headphones and sound stage is immersive. When I listen to 88kHz/24bit Daft Punk tracks I just feel like this band was in my room with me. I can point my finger at cymbal. I feel like I can grab the sound in my hand. It's kind of sound to die for. I am really eager to compare against K701, which is said here to be the king of the hill if it comes to sound stage.

Physically, the M50 is pretty comfortable to wear, but pleather tends to get a bit sweaty, and is a necessary evil for sealed-headphones.
Unlike ATH-M50 no sweating occurs. Roland has soft velour earpads. However the clamping force is slightly higher than ATH-M50 and is similar to Momentums. It is probably because both RH-A30 and Momentum use same steel band approach. I would say after few hours (like 6-8hrs) of listening Momentum's tend to be more comfy than RH-A30, but first few hours Roland's are better because they are bigger, and my ears are barely fitting in Momentum's earcups.

Originally I found out about these headphones very randomly. I was googling for FR of Pioneer HDJ-1000, and then I found that site, and I found they have very plausible method of FR measurement. I found Roland on the list of manufacturers and it made me curious. Here's link:

http://personalaudio.ru/raa/otchety/naushniki/roland-rh-a30/

You can note very flat FR curve of these headphones as measured using HDM1 method (mannequin). Here is ATH-M50 for comparison:

http://personalaudio.ru/raa/otchety/naushniki/audio-technica-ath-m50/

The graph for ATH-M50 shows a dip at 6kHz of -18dB depth and range 5-7kHz. On Roland's graph you can see smaller dip at 4.5kHz we have +3dB, then at 6.5kHz it goes to -6dB and then at 10kHz it goes up to +6dB. So, Roland's dip is wider (5.5kHz wide compared to 2kHz) and less deep (9dB on left, and 12dB on right compared to 18dB on both sides). Other feature is that ATH-M50 seems to boost a little frequencies below 200Hz, while RH-A30 rather keeps them flat, and they roll off gently below 50Hz, but the difference is only 6dB.

One may say FR graphs don't say anything about headphones, but he'd be wrong at least in this case. You can clearly hear the difference that you could have predicted by just looking at these graphs.

If I were to sum up I would say they sound much like ATH-M50, but more open, more space, more treble, more detail, more tight bass, more freedom, more realistic.

Movies
I have watched some movies in these, and for me they sound better than sound in IMAX, so that should explain all I guess.

Gaming - Dolby Headphone
I've seen Dolby Headphone youtube videos, but I was listening on HD215, so I didn't really hear all the greatness of DH.
When I got Asus Xonar DG and RH-A30 I was all eager to test DH in some games. The best result was definitely in "Medal of Honour". I simply heard things like I would if I were there in that place. I was pretty scared to be honest. Who wouldn't be hearing real bullets sweeping around your head . This was no longer just a sound effect - it was real. As real as your lunch today (if you had one). With closed eyes you can say not only direction but exact location where the sound originated from. An exact point in 3D space. You can simply say there. You are almost going to stand up from your comfy chair and run into your computer screen thinking to get that ba***rd who is shooting you. Tried with Counter-Strike GO, but they don't support DH, and their SW effect was miserable compared to DH in MoH.

Overall score
I give all 5 stars, but mainly because for that amount of money these headphones are just outstanding. I don't give 100% to comfort, because after 6hours I feel like taking them off my head. I also don't give 100% for design, and that is because I would prefer to have detachable cable, and also possibility of upgrade to balanced cable. For audio quality I also didn't give 100%, and that is because I really don't think it is reasonable to give 100% to €200 headphones. There definitely are better headphones, for better price, you just have to acknowledge that. But maybe these are all what you would ever need. For many people ATH-M50 are like that, so for extra €30 you get even more than you need then.

Warning: Spoiler! (Click to show)
About the author
Audio took some part of my late teenager life, which was half of my life time ago. Back then I have built my very own Hi-Fi amp and speaker system. With amp it all started from DIY kits. Then I made one step further and I designed and prepared PC boards my-self for all components like power amp, pre-amp with eq, and even analogue surround processor. Each of these components had different SNR and different FR. The surround chip I think it had 63dB SNR, but since the volume control was sitting after it and just before power amp, which was over 90dB SNR there was no audible noise in the speakers. I have also designed power supply. I remember these huge high current diodes and 10'000 uF capacitors. One day one of these caps blew up just in my hand! There was lots of fur around, but my hand didn't suffer at all. I had to replace it with 5'000 uF caps I had, but I didn't notice any adverse effect on audio.

I have owned several sound cards. The most popular two SB16 and GUS, and also some higher end stuff Ensoniq SoundScape Elite (http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Ensoniq_Soundscape_Elite). The amount of time I spent with that last one was basically whole my late teenager life. I used to play around with Cooledit Pro, Cakewalk Pro and other stuff like ESP effects editor I got from Ensoniq. Most fun I had with distortion and overdrive effects combined with some echo or flange. Basically I made MIDI songs sound kinda better? Lots of fun!

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