A few months back, I had a chance to audition the RHA MA150... billed as a bassier and more affordable entry level IEM to their MA350. What I found was ONE OF THE BASSIEST IEMS I'VE EVER HEARD. And I was not alone in that impression.
Armed with that feedback, RHA has gone back to the drawing board and re-tuned the MA150, resulting in a completely new revision (sound-wise). This new revision is now out on the market, and I was happy to check it out.
In terms of appearance, both the initial version and the new revision look the same. So how can we tell which version is which just by looking at them? Well, that's tough because they both look NEARLY identical. The new revision does have a thicker and better reinforced cable. But if you don't have both on hand to compare, it can still be a little tough to eyeball one and make a determination. The easiest way to tell is to look at the box that it came in.
The initial version (left) comes in a paper box with a top-opening flap. The new revision comes in a corrugated paperboard box with a side opening flap. Of course, this also means that if you're buying it used and without packaging, you're out of luck as far as identification goes. Go ahead and guess in that case, you got a 50/50 shot.
So how does this new revision compare to the initial version? I'm glad you asked!
(for comparison's sake)
|Sub-Bass||Very good sub-bass extension, though it can be fatiguing for long periods.||Good sub-bass extension, very squarely between the old MA150 and the MA350.||Reasonable sub-bass extension, certainly nothing to smirk at.|
|Bass||Pronounced, warm and gooey mid-bass that oozes into your aural orifices.||Pronounced and warm mid-bass with faster decay charateristics than the old MA150.||Bass - while abundant - is not nearly as thick as the MA150s; kinder, gentler, more refined.|
|Lower Mids||Noticeably recessed, to the point where lower mids are almost obscured by bass bleed.||Lower mids care still somewhat recessed, but noticeably more forward than before.||A much better bass-to-midrange transition than the MA150s; not a steep shelf or drop-off.|
|Upper Mids||Heavily-veiled, soft and splashy; pretty dull and lacking in crispness and snap.||A soft peak in the upper-mids adds snap, with no hint of sibilance, though there is a bit of noise.||Much more peaky, snappy, crispy and crunchety than either MA150, and cleaner to boot.|
|Mids (overall)||Blanketed midrange presentation, further compounding the already V-shaped signature.||The mids are much more forward. The signature is still V-shaped, but now the blanket is gone.||Slightly more forward and less veiled than the new MA150; definitely more forward vs the old MA150.|
|Highs||Decidedly rolled-off and lacking in air; can be quite suffocating at times.||A smooth/gradual tapering off starting from the upper mids; not airy, but not stifling either.||A VERY smooth roll-off; still not airy or breathy, but highs are not offensively absent in any way.|
My verdict? I like this new revision MUCH better. Let me repeat that, MUCH better. It is still bassier (and slightly darker) than the MA350, but in speaking with RHA, that was their intended goal right from the start... to offer a good value consumer IEM one step down from the MA350. So if you're looking for something akin to the MA350, and don't want to spend more than $20, this is definitely worth taking a look at, and listening to.
BTW (and this just between me and all of you guys so don't go spreading it), I personally think that they should re-release the initial version as a dedicated basshead IEM. I dunno, call it the MA50 or something. But that's just me.
And one last note, I'd like to thank RHA... not only for providing me with an evaluation sample (which they did)... but for paying attention to community feedback and boldly changing their products to better suit us. Not all manufacturers do this, so the ones that do deserve some recognition for it.
ERRATA: Oops, apparently there is a visual difference between the initial version and the new revision. Corrections made above.