RHA S500i Ultra-Compact In-Ear Headphone

Average User Rating:
3.95/5,
  1. stuartfang
    3.0/5,
    "Every rose has its thorn; the S500i has way too many"
    Pros - clean powerful bass, instrumental separation, detailed sound, resolution, build quality, warranty
    Cons - bright, fatiguing, sharp housing edges, driver flex, washed out mids, busy mic, microphonics
    The RHA S500/S500i is a surprisingly impressive IEM in a small form factor, given its many shortcomings, which I will cover in this review. The micro dynamic driver is stationed in full aluminium housings, with a combination of fabric and rubber cabling, ending in an aluminium straight plug.
     

     
    Packaging and accessories are adequate; a luxurious presentation with hearty content to back up the main show. Inside, one will find a nice, foamy netted carrying pouch, shirt-clip, and 7 pairs of RHA's "dual density" silicone eartips. There are two variations of eartips with slightly different shapes: one is like an olive, and the other is a sphere cut in half. This variety should accommodate most ear canals without issue. If you do have your own favourite tips, use them instead to get the best isolation and fit. While the single piece aluminium looks eye-catching and futuristic, the minimalist design failed to account for the sharp metal edges that can come in contact with your ears and cause strain. I find it less of a flaw when worn cable around the ear, but nonetheless it is to be noted.
     

     
    In my many past experiences with IEMs using fabric cabling, it usually resulted in unbearable microphonics and tangling issues. RHA did things right by mixing the two, with the Y-Splitter dividing the materials used. Even though the part of the cabling from the splitter to the housings are rubber, there is still a substantial amount of microphonic, which can be helped by wearing the cables over the ears coupled with a shirt clip, but not too much. Thus, exercising with these are not recommended. The slider is a snap-on type, which is obnoxious and useless as it is very easy for it to snap off, forcing the user having to adjust and clasp it together again. The cable's fabric feels rather cheap and fragile, and is undoubtedly prone to fraying. Strain relief appears to be sufficient, but within the first week of moderate usage, wear marks were already noticeable at the ends of the cable. The overall build quality is not too bad, and it should be fine as long as you're not using them for physical activity.
     


    I found the stock tips to be quite underwhelming, and used Sony hybrid and Monster triple-flange tips with it instead, both of which gave me a perfect seal and fit. While the sound quality is superb for the size and the price, its many shortcomings will certainly fend many people off. To start with, the bright fatiguing V-shaped signature is quite prominent, with somewhat washed out mids. Sibilance and driver flex is always an issue, and tend to happen very often, even after 200 hours of burn-in. I did an exchange after a week, and much to my surprise, the new one had the same issue as soon as I took it out of the box. It can be extremely annoying when this occurs at random. Isolation is poor, as there is a tiny hole at the bottom near the cable end. The included microphone in the i model seems to be of very poor quality. Whilst on a call with a friend, background and wind noise was a constant complaint. Instrumental separation, resolution, and soundstage imaging are all very impressive for the asking price; I was surprised to hear all the details and notes in what I've thrown at it, as the S500 can effortlessly reproduce the sound files to its most neutral state.
     
    All in all, the S500 is a very promising IEM, but the many drawbacks I've mentioned make it a deal-breaker for me. For only $10 more, the S500i version includes an Apple 3-button remote control, which is very appealing for Apple users as an upgrade from the EarPods. If you can oversee the aforementioned issues, the S500/S500i is without a doubt a decent investment, starting at only $39.95, which includes the lengthy 3-year international warranty.
     
    I'll be updating this review with a comparison to the Zero Audio Carbo Tenore soon, which I find is the closest competitor to the S500.
    B9Scrambler likes this.
  2. keanex
    3.0/5,
    "Slightly above average for the price"
    Pros - Strong bass response; tiny housings; good build
    Cons - Driver flex - makes positioning finicky; Sibilant; Scooped out lower midrange.

     
    Pros: Build quality; Strong bass presence.
    Cons: Driver flex - makes positioning finicky; Sibilant; Scooped out lower midrange.
    Tonal Balance: V-Shaped (Enhanced bass and upper midrange)
    Style: Worn down IEM
    Cost at Time of Review: $40 for non mic, $50 for mic
     

    Reviewing Process

    The RHA S500i have been my daily driver through my iBasso DX90 for approximately 1 month now. I’ve almost exclusively used them with the DX90 and no need for additional amplification. I’ve spent enough time with the S500i that I feel comfortable sharing my opinions on their sound and build. Even so, this is a subjective review and reviews will never trump experience. Test out headphones whenever possible before purchasing them!
     

    Build & Fit

    Build
    The housing is tiny, machined of lightweight aluminum alloy without a weak spot visible. The housings are denoted L or R to easily distinguish which side is which. The cable seems adequately built with adequate stress relief on either end, terminating in a rugged feeling aluminum alloy 3.5mm jack. The remote feels higher-quality than most in this pricerange, no looseness felt on the buttons and the microphone sounded quite clear for cell phone usage. Budget in price, but solid in feel.
     
    Fit
    The fit is not particularly noted as comfortable, but I’ve had no issues wearing these for 2 hours at a time. Insertion is simple, though finicky to get a proper sound and driver flex is a part of the issue. The driver flex is not severe, but certainly heard when forming a seal and creates a bit of an issue in obtaining optimal sound from the S500i. A plethora of tips should ensure a solid fit for most.
     

    Sound Quality

    Bass
    The S500i prominently displays the bass, often being the forefront of the sound regardless of the genre. They dig deeply with somewhat decent speed and decay, though somewhat loose and untextured throughout. They’re not as pushy and bloated as the Xiaomi Piston 2, but the bass is average for the price in all but presence.
     
    Mids & Highs
    The lower-midrange is prominently recessed; sandwiched in between prominent bass and shouty upper-midrange that simply amplifies this recession. This gives lower-ranged vocals, lower to mid-ranged piano notes and lower to mid-ranged guitar notes a feeling of being drowned out. In a vacuum the midrange sounds rather clean and enjoyable, but the moment other instruments enter, the lower-midrange takes a big step back.
     
    The upper-midrange does nothing to hide sibilance, and when sibilance isn’t an issue I find this frequency range to be shouty and somewhat grainy. There’s a distinct lack of balance between the lower-midrange and the upper-midrange that creates a very uneven volume level between the two frequency ranges, especially as singers vocals climb in range.
     
    The treble is present, somewhat grainy and fuzzy, similar to the bass in regards of texture. Having a rather generic splash for cymbals rather than showing each type of cymbal’s distinct tone and texture. Treble is present though, without being harsh.
     
    Presentation
    Width is respectable for an IEM, though the depth is rather unremarkable - I get no sense of distance from front to back. Imaging is also rather unremarkable, a simple left and right is noticed, but the sound is presented rather flatly. Congestion is also a concern and is mostly an issue of bass bloom and the shoutiness from the upper-midrange. There is no real sense of hard edges to the instruments with the S500i.
     

    Conclusion

    Man, it really seems like I hate the S500i yeah? I really don’t, and perhaps I’m being overly critical of them. I actually like the S500i more than most of the budget IEMs that I’ve heard, much better than the Piston 2, for instance, but they do have pretty notable flaws that I can not gloss over. At the end of the day the S500i are a budget IEM and they are certainly going to have compromises by design - but for a $40 IEM (without microphone) they have been a nice daily driver for the past month.
     
    Now the question is do I recommend these? Given a 3 year warranty and a plethora of accessories the S500i are a solid buy for those who want a strong bass response and the security of a reputable company backing them.
  3. glassmonkey
    4.5/5,
    "RHA s500i and ma750: A tale of two sisters, the Thin White Duke and the Fat Bottomed Girl, excellent sound in two affordable flavours (Pro-Con s500i)"
    Pros - Clarity, great clean natural vocals, sharp crunchy guitars, excellent bass quality, airy stage with precise instrumentation
    Cons - Treble can be a little fatiguing with some metallic sheen, some tin in the cymbals, could use more bass quantity

    Introduction

    First, I would like to say thank you for RHA Audio providing the s500i headphones as a review sample. The opinions are my own, and not supported by any review sample related euphoria, even though these were the first review samples I ever received.
     
    This is a dual review of the RHA s500i and the RHA ma750.
     

    Fit and Finish

    As they always do, RHA audio sent a loaded up sexy looking package for the s500i. They even gave me three windows to see into that beautiful cardboard house, two for the headphones, with a tastefully placed divider around the midsection, and one for all the ear jewelry. In all there are 7 pairs of silicone tips: 2 each of small, medium, and large single flange designs, and one set of double flange silicone tips. The tips include a plastic insert that is really useful for keeping your tips from floating about. Also included inside the box were a small mesh pouch and a shirt clip. The insert does not fit in the pouch. It would have been a nice touch. Next time, RHA, next time.
     
    I didn’t get the ma750 at retail, I borrowed them from a friend and then worked out a deal to keep them. They were my daily drivers from late November to early January. The ma750 comes with even more tips in a swish metal insert inside a nice rectangle carry case. The ma750 also comes with foamies, which many will like, but I find I only like when I really need to shut out ambient noise. Foamies colour bass sound, in my opinion, and I become too aware of their presence.
     
    The cable and in line remote on the s500i have nice quality and texture. I didn’t use the in-line remote as I don’t have an iPhone and generally control my music with my DAP or computer+DAC. The ma750 has a rugged stainless steel capsule that looks bomb proof. It comes with built in ear hooks. I found that the ear hooks were a bit too floppy, making it difficult to wear the headphones with the cable behind the neck. I didn’t notice any problems with microphonics with either cable, but I also didn’t break into a sprint at any point during my review. Most of my time was spent sitting at fake wooden desks typing away at keyboards as I am now.
     
    A note on RHA tips: they rock. I found they give a good seal, good isolation, and a balanced presentation. Don’t change your silicone tips for nobody, RHA.
     

     

    Comfort

    These microdrivers are miniscule. They weigh next to nothing. I found them most comfortable worn down. It is possible to wear them up, but it feels strange. Worn down they settle right into the crook of the ear. I really like the RHA silicone tips.
     

    Sound

    I have conflicted emotions about how these sound. They make me realize that I may not be a one headphone man—I know, funny for someone in this hobby to say that. I started out on HeadFi as a lurker in 2009, looking for the one set of IEMs that would satisfy my every need for the price that I could pay, I got the HiFiMan RE0 off of |joker|’s recommendation, and I was quite satisfied. I bought a Cowon D2+ off of HeadFi recommendations later that year.  That combination sated me for four years—until I figured out that I can’t wear IEMs for 8 hours a day at work. My ears won’t tolerate it, and that is when I got a set of overears. The KRK KNS8400 on HeadFi recommendations and wrote my first review on HeadFi, a three-way review between the KRK KNS8400, the RE0, and the Shure SR440. The KRK was for one purpose: work. When I bought my third set of headphones, it was the HD600, and they also had one purpose, listening at home. I’ve only ever owned headphones for a single purpose until this year. These headphones are part of a realisation, to paraphrase Marshawn Lynch’s favourite candy, that there is a whole rainbow of aural pleasures to sample out there. It’s time to hear the rainbow.
     
    I’ll say it up front, before I got these headphones I had a bit of an infatuation with their older sister, the RHA ma750. She had been my daily driver for two weeks and I was beginning to get comfortable cozied up in her sonic curves. The ma750 is a fat bottomed girl, and they do make the rocking world go round. When coming from the luscious bass with sweet funky tone of the ma750 the s500i sounded thin, distant, cold and metallic. It was shocking. I liked elements of the sound. I’d been listening to analytical headphones with the RE0 before, but I found that I’d become accustomed to the more coloured coiffure of the ma750. I came to the conclusion that these sounded great, but that I wanted to spend my time with a fat-bottomed girl, not the Thin White Duke. This was before Christmas, and I hadn’t listened to any Bowie while I was taking my review notes.
     
    I started writing this review yesterday (Jan 18, 2016), and stared down at my notebook of audio insights and saw that in spite of listening to the s500i for nearly 40 hours, I’d stopped taking notes at two pages. I had ten pages on the ma750 from my listen with the Lotoo Paw 5000 review unit. I really hadn’t given these a fair listen. I had reached a conclusion about the ending while the story was still unfurling. I hadn’t listened to Bowie. David Bowie, whose echoing voice in Ziggy Stardust first told me what a good pair of headphones can be when I plugged the RE0 into my Cowon D2+.
     
    I played Ziggy’s guitar through the s500i for obvious reasons. Listening to Black Star was a cathartic goodbye from Bowie over the last week. It felt like Bowie was giving his own eulogy at a funeral that all of us were attending. It was a deeply personal and deeply public goodbye. Who but Bowie could turn their own death into an artistic masterpiece?
     
    I put on Ziggy, the incarnation of Bowie that I first fell in love with. I took out my pen and notebook, and wrote down what I felt about the RHA sisters, playing them back to back, examining their curves, their sharp cheek bones, their sway under the serious moonlight. I didn’t just listen to Bowie, I said hello to Freddy, too. Roger Waters, Charles Mingus, and Regina Spektor joined the party for a bit.
     
    The s500i takes more convincing to show her personality. I don’t think I understood that when I first played her. I didn’t do much adjustment for comparative volume on my first forty hours of listening. The s500i likes to be driven hard. On the DX50, I routinely had the volume 9-10 points higher for the s500i while comparing to the ma750. The s500i really likes it when you crank up the volume. Similar differences were found on the Geek Out V2.
     
    I put ‘Space Oddity’ on. The s500i has tight well defined bass, while the ma750 is a bit more funky. The s500i has precision, and razor details. The ma750 has ambience, theatrics, a hint of sugar in the vocals. The s500i sounds more natural with Bowie’s vocals. Both are airy, but the s500i sounds cleaner, a little colder. There is a little bit of a metallic sound to some of the treble, and I suspect it’s partly due to the aluminum capsule (I still can’t bring myself to say aluminium after 4.5 years in England). I find myself preferring the s500i in everything but the treble presentation. Some highs are a bit piercing, and there is a touch of tin in the cymbals.
     
    On ‘Fat Bottomed Girls’ the drums kick a touch reluctantly and without sufficient conviction with the s500i. Clapping hands sound great, but the tin remains in the cymbals. These s500i like big drums, but can be a bit recessed on more mid-sized drum offerings. The ma750 is fuller and more forward. The details seem to come at you with more force with the ma750. There is an ambient dimensionality, the soundscape sounds full and broad on the ma750. Cymbals have their proper shimmer. The texture of the drums after ‘big big woman...’ is more pronounced and more convincing. Advantage ma750. Mounting up for ‘Bicycle Race’, the ma750 maintains its advantage. It sounds more dynamic and engaging. The musicality and warmth of the ma750 pair well with the music.
     
    Switching to female vocals, I summon up Regina Spektor – Fidelity. The s500i wins this round. It has a natural vocal weight with no added thickness. The ma750 colours Regina’s voice making it thicker and more weighty. The sound is clearer on the s500i.
     
    On Roger Waters – Late Home Tonight, Part One; the presentation of the street scene versus the sound inside the home and the impact of the bomb is better deployed on the ma750. The s500i has clearer details, a clearer and more forward representation of the fighter jet approach and more natural treble feel on the violins. Slight edge to the s500i.
     
    Charles Mingus is my favourite jazz musician. The ma750 did his song, ‘Ecclusiastics’, better. The tone was richer, with more full tone on piano. The horns sound better for the s500i. Both headphones show some recording noise, but the sound is more forward on the ma750.
     
    Returning to David Bowie – Moonage Daydream, the contest is a push again. The s500i has a more visceral razor sharp feel to guitars, but doesn’t have as much impact on drums. The drums impact like Tommy Gun rounds for the ma750. There is a touch of sweetness in the vocals of the ma750. Piano sounds clearer and spacing of instruments is more apparent on the s500i.
     
    While writing this review I listened to Best of Bowie, and Black Star exclusively with the s500i. I never felt like I needed to switch to the ma750. The s500i has a leaner sound, but it isn’t thin. The leanness leads to some details showing up better. The bass is tighter and more focused than the ma750. In terms I heard about the RE0, it has good bass quality, but unlike the RE0, it has a decent quantity too. The treble presentation, can be a little fatiguing over time.
     

    Conclusion

    Both of these headphones are fantastic value, and I find that they are like two flavours out of one delicious bag of skittles. After giving myself some time for perspective, and getting to know the s500i outside of the formidable shadow of her big sister, I found myself really appreciating her unique qualities. At £29 the s500 (mic-less version) has no right to sound as good as it does. It is detailed, with tight accurate bass, airy soundstage, and great visceral texture on guitars. Instruments are well spaced and generally well-played. I give the s500i a 4.25--HeadFi, your rating system isn't sensitive enough, either go to 10, or do 1/4 points.
     
    The ma750 is a worthy headphone to step up to, but double the cost. It has a fuller bottom end, better cymbals, more impactful drums, and a warmer sound with a touch of sweetness on the vocals. It is less analytical, and doesn’t fatigue. I find the sound a bit more engaging from the ma750. I think that the ma750 will appeal to people who state they are searching for a warm analogue sound. It delivers that in spades. I give the the ma750 a solid 4.25.
     
    Buy both headphones, or buy whichever flavour sounds more to your liking. Also, buy Black Star. I think it is Bowie’s best album since Berlin. It borrows some sound from his Berlin years, infuses some soul from the 80s and more modern production techniques. It is a remarkable stylistic synthesis of the career of a remarkable man. It is as fitting a eulogy as anyone could have given.
    B9Scrambler and L-MAC like this.
  4. mark2410
    5.0/5,
    "RHA S500i Quick Review by mark2410"
    Pros - Sooooo pretty. Sound phenomenal. Crazy long warranty.
    Cons - They are going to sell out before Christmas.
    RHA S500i Quick Review
     
    Thanks to RHA for the sample.
     
    Full review here  http://www.head-fi.org/t/788788/rha-s500i-review-by-mark2410
     
    Brief:  They sound even better than they look.
     
    Price:  £30 for the S500, £40 for the S500i (about US$45 and US$60 respectively)
     
    Specification:  Drivers Micro dynamic (model 140.1), Frequency range 16-22,000Hz, Impedance 16ohm, Sensitivity 100dB, Rated/max power 1/5mW, Weight 14g, Cable 1.35m two part material, Connections 3.5mm, gold plated
     
    Accessories:  7 pairs of tips, a tip holder, a shirt clip and lastly the little baggy for storing them.  While it’s super nice baggy I’d have preferred a little case.
     
    Build Quality:  First rate.  Okay it’s maybe not as nice as the T10 or T20, the cable isn’t super amazing and the jack’s much smaller but it’s still all first class.  For the price it’s exemplary.
     
    Isolation:  It’s fine.  It’s about middling for a dynamic I found so a little less than some others out there.  It is fine for normal uses like walking about or on a bus but very high noise places like the Tube or flights, not so much.  Easily enough to get you run over though if you forget to look where your going with them in.
     
    Comfort/Fit:  Both were good.  The mic as mics usually do liked to catch my collar if worn down but worn up it was high enough to not.  I prefer wearing up anyway.  Plus they are so small and light they should be good for most I’d think.
     
    Aesthetics:  They are lookers.  I’m sure there is someone out there who thinks their ugly but it’s certainly not me.  Visually they look beautiful.  RHA are proving to be masters of making good lookers.
     
    Sound:  Wow.  They are simply fantastic.  Okay it’s maybe not the bombastic adventure some way expect at this price, they are also much tamer than their 350 and 450 siblings.  These are flatter, much more a mellow V shaped sound.  The bass though is the side that dominates most readily however, oh noes, bass is above neutral.  Lol and what isn’t, its good bass too mind.  Not the deepest but what’s there stays clean, a hint of softness on top a layer of steel that stays firmly solid.  Depth suffers a little touch but so what.  It’s inclined to punch and cleanly rounded articulation.  Sculpted.  Mids are a touch dryish, cool and they do open breathy so well, a hint of delicacy to them with a faintly ethereal wisp.  Very creamy vocals get pushed towards openness which shows off how dynamics best do vocals.  It pleases me greatly.  Highs, they are inclined to go just like the mids, cool dryish and they meant to give that hard metallic, resonant metal enclosure hardness.  Feed them from a cold hard DAP, with crappy, brittle, abundant treble and on your own head be it.  They want either oodles of power and some additional impedance or they want a smoothly mellow and mediocre output, just like on an Iphone.  I was very surprised how well they complement my Iphone 5.  Very very surprised but there is no disputing the S500 play to their weaknesses and eek out every last drip the can from the phone.
     
    Value:  I suggest not buying one but at least two pairs.  One for you and one for whoever needs the joy of music in their lives.
     
    Pro’s:  Sooooo pretty.  Sound phenomenal.  Crazy long warranty.
     
    Con’s:  They are going to sell out before Christmas.

    peter123 likes this.
  5. nmatheis
    4.0/5,
    "RHA S500i: T20's little brother"
    Pros - Good sound with crisp treble and punchy bass. Good ergonomics. Solidly built. Attractive design. 3-year warranty.
    Cons - Mids could use more warmth. Could be too bright for some. Microphonic cable.

    Photo courtesy of RHA

     

     

    INTRODUCTION

    RHA is a company that needs little introduction around Head-Fi. The Scottish audio company is well-known for solidly built in ear monitors with a warm sound signature. I've been following them since I purchased a pair of MA750. I've also tested their T10i and helped coordinate a tour for their T20 IEM. I have an interesting relationship with their IEM. I really like the MA750. It was one of the first really good single dynamic IEM I heard, but I had issues with fit and ergonomics that prevented me from using it as much as I would've liked. Then the T10i came along, and I was a vocal critic of its sound signature, which I found overly warm and wooly. When the T20 was announced, it seemed like RHA's answer to criticisms raised against the T10i. I jumped at the chance to help coordinate a tour for them and enjoyed them immensely (T20 Review). So when I saw the new S500i, I was quite interested. I've developed a fondness for micro driver IEM like the VE Duke (Duke Review), which have characteristics I find attractive - quick, crisp, punchy. When I read early reports of it being RHA's most neutral IEM to date, my curiosity levels rose and I volunteered to review them. I knew going in that I wouldn't need or want a microphone, and I'm not going to ding them for that since there's already a mic-free S500 that I'd recommend to like-minded people.
     
    Before we dive into the review, here's what RHA would like you to know about them:
     
    RHA is a specialist British headphone company.

    We stand for true-to-life audio reproduction and lasting quality.

    With these values at our core, we work to deliver the most accurate, comfortable and unobtrusive listening experience possible.

    Every RHA product combines high quality materials, precision engineering and our fundamental commitment to design.



     
    RHA's US Website: LINK.
     
    Dedicated RHA S500i thread: LINK.
     
     

    DISCLAIMER

    There is no financial incentive from RHA for writing this review.  I am in no way affiliated with RHA, and this is my honest opinion of the S500i.  I would like to thank RHA for giving me a chance to test drive the S500i, and I hope my feedback proves useful for my fellow Head-Fi members as well as for RHA.
     
     

    ABOUT ME

    I'm a 43 year old father who loves music.  While I listen mostly to electronic and metal these days, I do listen to a wide variety of music - from electronic (Autechre, Boards of Canada) to modern/minimalist composition (John Cage, Philip Glass) to alternative rock (Flaming Lips, Radiohead) to jazz (John Coltrane and Miles Davis) to metal (Behemoth, King Diamond) to classic rock (Eagles, Rush).  
     
    I'm primarily a portable audio enthusiast. My portable music journey started with the venerable Sony Cassette Walkman and then progressed to portable CD players, minidisc recorders (still have my Sharp DR7), and finally on to DAPs like the Rio Karma, iRiver IHP-1xx, iPod 5.5, iPhones, and the newer crop of DAPs from Fiio and iBasso.
     
    Being a portable audio enthusiast, I typically listen with IEMs but am enjoying listening with full-size headphones more and more and tend to like u-shaped sound signatures, although I break out v-shaped IEM & HP from time to time for fun.
     
    As with a lot of people my age, I've got some hearing issues.  I've got mild tinnitus and suffer from allergies, which can affect hearing in my right ear.  I'll admit it, I'm not blessed with a pair of golden ears.  That said, I've been listening to portable gear for a long time and feel confident in assessing audio gear - just wanted to be transparent up front.



     
     
    SPECS
    1. Driver: Micro dynamic (model 140.1)
    2. Frequency Response: 16Hz-22kHz
    3. SPL: 100dB
    4. Impedance: 16Ω
    5. Plug: 3.5mm gold-plated straight plug
    6. Cord Length: 1.35m
    7. Weight: 14g
     
    Here's a simple FR graph from RHA's S500i page (LINK). We'll see how this matches up with the sound later in the review.
    FR graph courtesy of RHA
     

     

    PACKAGING & ACCESSORIES



    Packaging: The packaging is simple compared to RHA's flagship products but is still quite attractive.
     
    Front + Left Side

     
    Front + Right Side

     
    Rear

     
    S500i + Accessories

     
     

    BUILD & ERGONOMICS

    The S500i are a small cylindrical, all-metal design that disappears in your ears. I'll walk through the various design and ergonomic features of the S500i in pictorial format below.
     
    Here's a close-up look at the S500i with the tips removed. Personally, I find them quite attractive. Things to note here are the clear L/R earpiece markings, small but solid strain reliefs, tiered nozzle which holds the tips on quite securely, and black mesh wax guard. A nice touch are the ear-facing L/R earpiece markings, which aren't visible once the IEM are inserted. The vent hole just adjacent to the strain relief isn't visible. 

     
    Here's a picture of tre rear face of the Left earpiece showing the RHA logo and a raised dot on the strain relief for blind operation.

     
    Here's how they look with the tips.

     
    Here's the front of the mic / control module. There are subtle + and - markings for volume control and a raised dot for play/pause and accepting and ending calls. I typically use IEM with DAPs. So while I did test the remote features a bit with my iPhone, I didn't use them extensively nor did I test the mic.

     
    Here's the rear of the mic / control module showing the mic hole and model number. I like it that RHA matched the color very well between the mic / control module and the earpieces. Not all IEM manufacturers do. 

     
    This shows the two cable material, as well as the hard plastic y-splitter and softer chin slider. The cable from the 3.5mm plug to the y-splitter is wrapped in braided nylon. The nylon wrap increases durability and microphonics, so I found the shirt clip a must if you want to wear the S500i while mobile. The L/R cable from the y-splitter to the earpieces lack the nylon covering. I'm not sure why, but the chin slider has a slit which allows it to detach from the cable leading to the right earpiece.

     
    Completing our trip down the IEM, we end with the smartphone case friendly gold-plated 3.5mm straight plug with RHA's signature metal housing.

     
    Here's what S500i look like worn down vs. over ear (and yes, it's time to grow those winter beards, chaps!). Either way, they only stick out a few mm from my ears. And while they're designed to be worn down, they can be worn over ear. However, this will definitely reduce the mic's effectiveness and places the controls in an awkward spot. If you're an over ear person, I'd suggest the S500 which forego the mic / control module. On the plus side, since these are a symmetrical design wearing over ear won't result in channel swap. 

     
    I'd like to point out one nitpick with the S500i, which is the earpieces do have a tendency to slip out and require reseating after listening for awhile due to the smooth eartips RHA provides. I prefer the grippy eartips that come with Vsonic IEM. They stay in much better for me. It would be nice for RHA to provide more eartip choices to suit people's needs and preferences. 
     
     
    SOUND
    FYI: I mainly listen to experimental electronic and metal and mainly used those genres to evaluate the S500i, using the S500i as my sole IEM for a one week period. During my week with the S500i, I mainly listened to them out of the brand spankin' new Shanling M2 (LINK to the dedicated M2 thread I started). 
     
    Since I have RHA's nice FR graph, I'm going to use it as an aid in explaining what I'm hearing with the S500i. So, let's go back to that FR graph I showed you earlier:
     

    FR graph courtesy of RHA
     
    So, what do we see here? Well, first of all, we see that RHA tests at blisteringly loud listening levels. Yikes! The scaling required to show the FR curve flattens it out pretty well. If we kept the graph the same size on the page but made the y-axis 20dB to 120dB, we'd start to see the S500i start to look more v-shaped. If we made the y-axis 40dB to 120dB, it'd look even more v-shaped. You get the drift, S500i sounds v-shaped. We also see that bass levels are the most prominent. That's not really how I'm hearing this IEM, so let's try to find an explanation and move on to something I think will help. We see that the FR curve itself has been smoothed out. In my experience, this tends to reduce the size of any treble peaks on FR graphs. If the smoothing was turned down, I'd expect to visualize more prominent peaks on the right side of the graph. My completely non-professional measurements put those peaks at ~3kHz and ~7kHz and a minor peak at ~10kHz. These peaks help tilt the sound signature into that v-shape I was strongly hinting at instead of the reverse checkmark it looks like on the FR graph. In fact, if anything, they make it more of a mild checkmark sound signature with the crisp upper end balancing out the low end quite nicely. 
     
    To put a more traditional spin on things...
     
    BASS: I'm hearing punchy bass that digs deep. Could it be punchier? Sure, it could if it had bit more mid-bass emphasis. But I think RHA did a good job tuning the bass FR to avoid boominess. It's well-extended. I was listening to some experimental electronic music with extreme frequency range manipulations (Cyclo's ID album) while writing this review, and got nice rumble. It's quick enough for most music, but I hear a slight smearing with extreme metal blastbeats. It reminds me a lot of the T20's bass but not as textured.
     
    MIDS: Lower mids are neutral, but as I mentioned above I measured a boost in the upper mids around 3kHz. To my ears, both female and male vocals sound a bit dry and lacking sweetness and emotion. This is one area I think the S500i could improve on. While the mids are quite clean, a bit of warmth here would go a long way. To be clear, I'm not at all saying the mids are bad, just that for my tastes they could be a bit sweeter.
     
    HIGHS: The word I'd use to describe the upper end is crisp. Thankfully, they achieve this without veering into sibilance territory. Cymbals are very present and can border on hyperreal if they're too present in the mix, so be cautious with those hot recordings. With good recordings and reasonable listening levels, you should be fine. Finally, the well-controlled treble peaks, along with the upper mid peak, contribute to a nice sense of air and separation. Again, I hear a nod to the T20's tuning here.
     
    SOUNDSTAGE: Soundstage is above average for an IEM at this price point. I can clearly hear sounds outside of head space, and mid to upper frequency sounds especially have a clear sense of separation and placement.  
     

    ISOLATION & MICROPHONICS: Isolation is a bit below average. Microphonics can be a bit of problem, so make sure to use that shirt clip and/or wear over ear.
     
    POWER REQUIREMENTS: The S500i is easy to drive. I've been listening to it at 20/60 on the Shanling M2, which translates to ~50/120 on my FiiO X5 Classic, both on Low Gain, of course.
     
     
    SUMMARY
    So in the end, what do I think of the RHA S500i? First and foremost, I'm happy that RHA is bringing a taste of the T20 sound to their entry-level IEM. Crisp, dynamic, and punchy are the words that come to mind, followed by tiny and comfortable. My few nitpicks would be dry mids, microphonic cable, and slippery (for me anyway) eartips. Isolation is also a bit below average but is okay. Balancing these few nitpicks out is a really nice sound for the price you pay, with well-extended, punchy bass and a crisp, clean upper end that adds a nice sense of air and separation. You also get a very attractive, well-built pair of IEM with RHA's outstanding 3-year warranty. I found these actually suited the music I listen to most quite well, but if you're looking for something warm, dark, lush (you get the picture) pass these by. They're not going to suit you. If you're looking for an IEM in this price range with a vibrant, dynamic sound, please consider the RHA 
     
    I hope you found this useful and would like to give a hearty thanks to RHA for giving several members of the Head-Fi community a chance to review the S500i. I've enjoyed reading over the other reviews almost as much as my time with the S500i. Great job, guys!
  6. Hisoundfi
    4.0/5,
    "Micro dynamic, big sound! The RHA S500i in-ear monitor with microphone and remote"
    Pros - Big sound in a small package, Lots of detail, Open and airy for an IEM, Solid design and stylish build for the price
    Cons - Treble emphasis and occasional sibilance, Cloth cable is prone to fraying.
    At the time of the review, the RHA S500i was on sale on their website. Here is a link to their listing of the product at the time of the review.

    http://www.rha-audio.com/us/headphones/s500.html
     
    Introduction
    RHA is a premier maker of in-ear monitors from the United Kingdom. Ever since joining Head-Fi, I’ve heard lots of good things about them. They are known for their sturdy built earphones with  forward bass response. While many enjoy their bass forward tuning, some have taken a negative stance on them.
     
    I have only sampled and reviewed the T20 from RHA before getting my hands on them. I loved their sound and build quality. Although it did have forward bass response, their overall fidelity was fantastic. Still, some reviewers and critics have said that although the T20 was an improvement over the T10 in terms of bass response, they still thought the T20 was too bass forward.
     
    I think the S500 series comes in at a perfect time, offering tighter and slightly leaner bass tuning that will silence the naysayers, and offer a more budget friendly earphone that shows what RHA is capable of. I am happy to cover them with a review.
     
    Disclaimer
    I was given an opportunity to review the s500i in exchange for my honest opinion and review. I am in no way affiliated with RHA.
     
    My Background
    I AM NOT a numbers and graphs audiophile or sound engineer. Personal audio enthusiast? Absolutely! Headphone junkie? Possibly…
     
    There’s something about quality DAPs, DACs, Amplifiers and Earphones that intrigues me, especially if they can be had for low prices. I will buy the $5 to $500 earphone that looks promising, in hopes that I will discover that one new gem that can compete with the big names in this industry. If you look at my Head-Fi profile you will see that I have purchased MANY different headphones and earphones, ranging from from dirt cheap to higher end products. For me, this hobby is more about getting great price to performance ratio from a product, and have a variety of different gears with varying builds and sound to mix and match. With personal audio gear, we tend to pay a lot of money for minor upgrades. One thing I’ve learned over the last few years is that just because a headphone has a higher price tag, it doesn’t mean that it has superior build and sound quality.
     
    I’m always looking for great audio at a great price. I’m after headphones and IEMs that give me the “WOW” factor. I can appreciate different builds and sound signatures as long as they are ergonomic, and the sound is pleasing to the ear. It is my pleasure to share my experiences with audio products and make recommendations based gear I have owned and used.
     
    REVIEW

    The S500i comes in a tall and narrow black box with gray and orange accents, and features a nice picture of the earphones and mic/remote.
     

    The back of the box displays and describes key features about the product in several languages (including english)
     

    The left side of the box features a nice graph and display of the very nice silicone tip selection.
     

    The right side of the package displays the housings and remote.
     
    Specifications and Accesories
    Specifications
    Drivers
    Micro dynamic (model 140.1)
    Frequency range
    16-22,000Hz
    Impedance
    16ohm
    Sensitivity
    100dB
    Rated/max power
    1/5mW
    Weight
    14g
    Cable
    1.35m two part material
    Connections
    3.5mm, gold plated


     
    Accessories
    1. S500i in-ear headphone
    2. 6 pairs, dual density ear tips - S x2 / M x2 / L x2
    3. 1 pair, double flange ear tips - S x1
    4. Patent pending ear tip holder
    5. Carry pouch
    6. Clothing clip
     

    Although I would have prefered a clamshell case, the mesh case RHA has included is nicely done and will make the S500i pocket friendly. The RHA silicone tips are some of the best tips you can get. They come in five different sizes almost guaranteeing a snug and comfortable fit. The plastic plate that holds the S500i tips is a very convenient and genius gadget that will help keep things organized.
     
    Housings

    The housings of the S500i are sleek, simple and solid. They are constructed of lightweight aluminium. The nozzle of the S500i is slightly wider and shorter than the average in ear monitor. The RHA logo is displayed on the end of each housing, and the back side is labeled with L & R markings.

     
    Cable, Y-Split, Cable Jack, Strain Reliefs

    The part of the cable that runs from the jack to the Y-Split is covered in black fabric sheathing. After light use I have some fraying in the cable. From the Y-Split to each channel, they have standard rubber sheathed wire. The Y-split is a simple hard rubber variety that works well. There is a chin slider above the Y-split that can be run up to the microphone/remote. The S500i sports a straight jack that is housed in high quality aluminum. Strain reliefs are made of flexible rubber, and are well done at the jack and housings.
     
    Functionality

    The S500i comes with a three button microphone/remote. The mic is nicely constructed, seems very solid, and worked flawlessly when testing it. All three buttons work for Iphone, but only the center button works for Android.
     
    When calling family and friends, they stated my voice came in at a three on a scale from one to five.
     
    Ergonomics, Fit and Microphonics, Isolation
    The housings of this micro driver IEM is relatively small and sets up for a great under the ear fit. An over the ear fit is possible, but the way the cable angles away from the housing causes the cable to loop outwards when wearing them over the ear. When worn under the ear microphonics are pretty substantial. When worn over the ear microphonics are eliminated. Isolation on the S500i is not world class, but is much better than the average in-ear monitor.
     
    NOTE: Before I start the sound review, I’d like to state that the build quality is very good for its price, and better than many in ear monitors in it’s range of cost. However, this product does not carry the same premium build as the likes of the MA750 or T10/T20.
     
    Sound Review
    I did my demo with my usual gear. I used an LG-G3 with the latest firmware for portable and smartphone use, and either my Shanling H3 or Sony Walkman F806/Cayin C5 amplifier for a high fidelity portable use. For desktop use I used my Toshiba Satellite Laptop in combination with a HIFIMEDIY Sabre ES9023 USB DAC/Bravo Audio Ocean Tube amplifier with a Mullard 12AU7 tube for higher impedance, and a Fiio E18 USB DAC & Amplifier in both high and low gain. Both were run at 24 bit, 96000 Hz. I also tested them with other DAPs and amplifiers as well. I used Google Music downloaded in its highest download quality (320 KBPS) and I also streamed FLAC via Tidal streaming service. I also used purchased and downloaded tracks in MP3, FLAC, WAV and DSD. I make sure that any gear I test has sufficient playtime before writing a review.
     
    I used my usual same songs for testing gear:
    “Limit to your love” by James Blake (bass speed, punch, response)
    “Doin’ it Right” by Daft Punk (sub bass)
    “Get lucky” by Daft Punk (bass to midrange transition resolution, male vocals)
    “Madness” by Muse (soundstage, separation)
    “Some nights” by Fun (soundstage and male vocals)
    “The soundmaker” by Rodrigo y Gabriela (texture and imaging)
    “Bassically” by Tei Shi (bass to midrange resolution, female vocals)
    “Skinny Love” performed by Birdie (female vocals, acoustic playback)
    “One” by Ed Sheeran (male vocals, acoustic playback)
    “Outlands” from the Tron Legacy Soundtrack (symphonic presentation, imaging)
    “Sultans of swing” by Dire Straits (detail, separation, balance)
    “And Justic for All” by Metallica (driver distortion, treble response, rock playback)
    “Ten thousand fists” by Disturbed (driver distortion, treble response, rock playback)
     
    Note: Other tracks were used, but the listed songs were primarily used to asses and break down the gear’s response.
     
    Source Selection

    The S500i is designed to be used with your Iphone/Ipad or portable device. Don’t try to reinvent the wheel on this one. Adding a portable amplifier to the mix will disable the remote and not offer a fidelic upgrade that makes it worth stuffing your pockets with gear. Try to go with some higher quality music files. The S500i is a detailed IEM that will make a mess of poorly recorded music. I preferred listening to my S500i through a warm source. Honestly, I really enjoyed the S500i listening to Google Music at 16/48K on my LG G3 as much as anything else I own.
     
    Sound Signature
    The S500i is a micro driver dynamic that offers a very spacious sound in a very tiny housing. They offer an extended and bass response and aggressive upper midrange. The overall tuning is nicely detailed and with excellent separation of sounds. To be honest there were times when I felt like I was listening to a very nice pair of closed headphones.
     
    Bass
    The bass response from my S500i is tight and extends pretty well into sub bass regions. It carries an equal amount of punch and rumble and is not overdone. Going off of memory it is considerably less than the T20 I reviewed earlier this year. I really enjoyed the bass tuning and don’t feel it was particularly lacking in any way. When I first read impressions of the S500i I thought that if I was going to dislike them, it would be because of the lack of bass. After hearing them for myself that isn’t the case at all. The bass isn’t so much tuned down as much as there are other frequencies are elevated.
     
    Midrange
    Midrange is right in the middle of being warm and cold, and provides a fantastic amount of separation and detail. There is no bass bleed to worry about whatsoever. There is an open and airy sense that is really impressive. Upper midrange is aggressive and I could hear a spike around 3-4 kHz that added a nice energy to the sound.
     
    Treble
    Aside from the 3-4 kHz spike there was also another spike around 7kHz. This gives the S500i a crisp top end, but also borders on being overly sharp, especially at louder volumes. Some people who are sensitive to treble will report that these are sibilant, especially those who are accustomed to listening to their earphones at loud or unhealthy levels. I would describe the S500i treble as being sharp and maybe even bordering on harsh. Control this by using a warm source and the right pair of tips and you’ll be fine.
     
    Soundstage and Imaging
    As I stated earlier, the S500i tuning renders huge soundstage for an in-ear monitor. I really liked the sense of space I got while listening to them. Solid soundstage and imaging is one of the S500i’s best attributes. This is a product of their extension on both ends in combination with great resolution and detail.
     
    Comparisons
     
    Zero Audio Carbo Tenore ($40 to $60 USD on many sites)
    The Tenore is a hall of fame micro dynamic driver earphone that won over the approval of many Head-Fiers because of their ultra high fidelity and reference sound qualities. Their downfall ended up being inconsistencies in build and sound. Some pairs would be much bassier than others, and over time the Tenore revealed some major durability issues and channel imbalance for people who used them on a daily basis. While the Tenore craze was going on I snatched a couple pairs of “reference” tenores. They still rank pretty high on my list of preferred in ear monitors.
     
    Soundwise, they share similar responses from bass through lower midrange. Where they differ quite a bit is in the upper midrange response. The Tenore is a much smoother treble presentation, and almost sounds rolled off in comparison to the aggressive top end of the S500i. The top end of the RHA makes them sound much more aggressive and livelier.
     
    Holding both earphones in my hand, I appreciate the build quality of the RHA offering. Their build quality is far superior. Rha destroys the Tenore in terms of accessories. Despite the fact that Zero Audio offers some really phenomenal tips with their earphone, the RHA tip selection and quality is “phenomenal-er” and the mesh bag RHA provides is much nicer than the generic cloth bag that comes with the Tenore. Also, the S500i offers a mic/remote, making it more phone friendly over the Tenore.



     
    Sony MH1C ($40 to $60 USD on many sites)
    The Sony MH1 was a giant craze a couple years ago. It was a micro dynamic earphone that came with Sony’s smartphones during their Sony/Ericsson merger days. The MH1 flew under the radar until Ericsson was disbanded, leaving thousands of pairs of MH1 without a purpose. That is, until some audio enthusiasts discovered the phenomenal sound quality they possessed. The craze had gotten pretty serious, to the point that guys were making money recabling them from the horrid J-cord they had. Sony caught wind of the craze and re-released the MH1C, an Android friendly version.
     
    The Sony MH1C is a smooth bass forward earphone. Sony couldn’t manage to get smart when they brought them back and stayed with the fat J-cord (shame on you Sony). Needles to say, the build of the RHA is better due to the Sony design flaw.In terms of sound, the MH1C is a warmer, smoother and bassier earphone that is less fatiquing. The S500i is a much airier and energetic sounding earphone.
     
    I give accessories a draw for one reason. The tips of the Sony MH1C are probably my favorite tips of all time.

     
    Conclusion
    The RHA was better than I was expecting. Yes, the treble can get a bit over the top but they also yield a very detailed and exciting signature that I really enjoy. They S500i will give budget conscious consumers an opportunity to try a great earphone from a great company.

    Thanks for reading and happy listening!
  7. Delance26
    4.0/5,
    "A Tiny Music Companion"
    Pros - Detailed treble, Good bass extension, Great build Quality
    Cons - Poor Isolation, Unreliable bass presence, Short cable (for tall people)

    Disclaimer: These headphones were provided to me through RHA in exchange for an honest review.  My opinions are my own and unbiased.
     
    Introduction: I would like to take a brief moment to thank the good folks at RHA for providing these headphones for review.  The s500i is my first RHA IEM.  In addition to reviewing these headphones, I will be comparing them to other IEM’s that are in the same price bracket.  These headphones are, in addition to the s500i, the Shure SE215 (MSRP 99.00), Thinksound Rain 2 (89.99), and MeElectronics M6 Pro (49.99).  The s500i retails for 49.95 according to the RHA website.  This makes them the lowest priced IEM of the bunch (albeit by only 4 cents). Below is a graph comparing these headphones in several categories.  If you would prefer to save yourself some reading please see the attached graph! Now let us see how the s500i stacks up to the competition!
     

     
     
    Pros:
    ·         Detailed treble
    ·         Good bass extension
    ·         Great build Quality
     
    Cons:
    ·         Poor Isolation
    ·         Unreliable bass presence
    ·         Short cable
     
    Audio Quality (8.5):  My initial impressions of these were lack luster.  As another reviewer commented, and I have also observed, they sound very hollow at first.  The bass was loose and uncontrolled and the treble was sibilant.  Before I passed judgement on them let my ears adjust to them and let random playlist of music play through them for several hours (most of the night).  Once I started listening to them the next day I noticed an immediate difference.  The treble had been smoothed out and gained texture, whereas the bass got tighter and more controlled.  I think it has now reached its full maturity and I would label them as a “U” shaped headphone, with a bigger spike in the treble then bass.
     
    The bass is probably the biggest weakness of the sound for these headphones.  While it is by no means bad, it is a little lack luster. It lacks detail and seems a little flat.  It also has a tendency to intrude on the lower mids, sometimes taking away for lower male vocals.  It is like the uninvited dinner guest who shows up anyway.  Despite this knock on the bass there are some good things about it.  For one it does manage to dig deep.  The bass extension is pretty impressive from such a small driver.  If you are looking for a bass cannon IEM, these are not it.  Instead you should look at the Thinksound Rain 2, which has more than enough low end to go around (but sub-par treble)
     
    The mids are fairly average, with little to say about them.  I would say if it excels in one place in this category it is female vocals.  It has superb separation and detail for female vocals.  I attribute this to the above average performance in the treble of these headphones.  Of the group of headphones I am looking at the Shure SE215 wins this category hands down (but is also twice the price).
     
    The treble is where this headphone really sparkles.  I am a pretty big fan of the emphasized treble.  It is as if RHA is trying to wage war on the plethora of bass tuned headphones on the market.  So far I think they have done it well.  The treble I think has great separation considering the price point and the sheer size of these IEM’s.  It is well managed, never becoming sibilant (unless at extreme volumes).  The only other headphone that competes with the s500i in the treble region is the SE215, but again it is twice the price.
     
    The s500i a solid performer considering its price point.  I should also note that I had a pair of Comply tips laying around and they fit these headphones.  Adding the Comply tips increased the isolation and controlled the bass, giving it a more refined sound.  For those trying to improve on these I recommend getting Comply tips.  The s500i pairs best with classical music and rock.  Be warned, music with strong bass is often times muddied and distorted as the bass intrudes on the lower mids.  Having said this, it is a solid performer that will easily work as a “go to” IEM. 
     
    Design (8.5):  The design of these headphones is well done in my opinion.  They are small and compact and are solid.  The all-aluminum chassis adds a nice industrial design, aiding to the RHA slogan “Sound. Engineered.”  Below the splitter on the headphone the cable becomes covered in cloth, helping prevent cable noise and tangles.  The provided shirt clip is helpful to help reduce cable noise as well (which is about average on these).  The provided carrying pouch is simple enough, gets the job done.  There are a few changes I would make to these headphones, however there are a few. 
    First, I would lengthen the 1.35 meter cable to at least 1.5 meters.  This is because I am 6’3 and I have noticed that I feel a bit constrained by the shorter cable.  Comparing these to the SE215 (which has the longer cable length) I feel less tied down and mobile.  I have experienced this same limitation in the other two IEM’s.  One nice thing about the s500i cable, however, is the audio plug.  It is small and narrow.  This will be nice for those that have durable cases for their phones that seem to make it impossible to plug any form of audio device in.  Second, I would like to see a removable cable as found in the M6 Pro.  However, I recognize the fact that adding this feature would increase the size, and take away from the purpose of a micro driver.
     
    Isolation (6.5):  The isolation of these headphones I would consider below average.  When comparing to the other three IEM’s in my possession these were the worst.  They also produce the most amount of sound leakage, although I would not consider it a major problem unless you listen at deafening volumes.  The isolation was improved upon by adding Comply tips, which I would recommend with these.
     
    Overall (8.2): Overall I would give these headphones a solid 8.2/10.  They perform under most situations and what weaknesses it possess are acceptable considering the price point of 49.95.  Assuming the s500 (non-microphone version) sounds the same, which I would assume, it is an even better value at 39.95.  The very fact that I am comparing it to headphones that are double its price points speaks highly of its value.  While it cannot fully compete with the SE215 (rating of 8.8) it does offer a lower price alternative.  I had my mother and girlfriend give these a listen and both admitted that they were vastly superior to the free “included with a purchase” headphones (I am looking at you apple buds).  I tip my hat to RHA for creating a solid IEM that is durable and sounds good with most music types. 
    B9Scrambler likes this.
  8. peter123
    4.5/5,
    "Micro driver, BIG sound!"
    Pros - Excellent sound, build, ergonomics AND a three years warranty
    Cons - Long cable. cable cloth not of best quality
    I would like to start with saying thank you to RHA and Iain for giving me the chance to check out the RHA S500i.
    The RHA S500i is only available from Apple store as far as I understand but the version without a mic (S500) is available on Amazon:
     
    http://www.amazon.co.uk/RHA-ultra-compact-isolating-aluminium-headphone/dp/B015YBFFNQ/ref=sr_1_1?ie=UTF8&qid=1445028750&sr=8-1&keywords=rha+s500
     
    http://www.amazon.de/RHA-ultra-kompakte-ger%C3%A4uschisolierende-Kopfh%C3%B6rer-Aluminium/dp/B015YBFFNQ/ref=sr_1_1?s=ce-de&ie=UTF8&qid=1445029082&sr=1-1&keywords=rha+s500
     
    http://www.amazon.com/RHA-S500-Ultra-compact-isolating--ear/dp/B015YBFFNQ/ref=sr_1_1?ie=UTF8&qid=1445029142&sr=8-1&keywords=rha+s500
     
    I’m not in any way affiliated with RHA.
     
    About RHA:
    I’ve got no prior experience with RHA or their products but this is what they say about themselves on their website:
     
    “RHA is a specialist British headphone company.
     
    We stand for true-to-life audio reproduction and lasting quality.
     
    With these values at our core, we work to deliver the most accurate, comfortable and unobtrusive listening experience possible. Every RHA product combines high quality materials, precision engineering and our fundamental commitment to design.”
     
    Pretty bold statements let’s see if the S500i’s lives up to them.
     

     

     
     
     
    About me:
    I’m a 43 year old music and sound lover that changed my focus from speakers to headphones and IEM’s about five years ago. At that time I realized that it wasn’t realistic for me to have all the different setups that I wanted and still house a family of four children and a wife so my interest turned first to full sized headphones and later also IEM’s.
     
    My preferences are towards full sized open headphones and I believe that also says something about what kind of sound signature I prefer (large soundstage in all directions, balanced and organic sound).
     
    My music preferences are pretty much all over the place (only excluding classical music, jazz and really heavy metal). My all-time favorite band is Depeche Mode although I also listen to a lot of grunge/indie, singer/songwriter/acoustical stuff as well as the typical top 40 music.
     
    I do not use EQ, ever.
     
    I’m a sucker for value for money on most things in life, Head-Fi related stuff is no exception.
     
    Built and accessories:
    The RHA S500i’s are a micro dynamic driver in ear monitor.
     
    It comes in two versions: one with mic for Apple products and one without mic. The answer/call (same as play/pause) button and mic on the mic version works great with my Sony Z3compact phone while the other buttons seem to work only with Apple devices.
     
    The cable has a straight 3.5 mm connector. Although I personally prefer L-shaped (45 or 90 degrees) connectors this one seems very well built and should hold up for a long time. The chin slider is also in place. The chin slider is actually a bit special as well. As far as I can remember I’ve only seen this solution on one other IEM earlier (the AKG K323xs) and it makes the risk of getting stuck and ruining the cable smaller:
     

     
    The first company starting to make these chin sliders with an opening on BOTH sides for use with IEM’s that comes without chin sliders originally should be able to sell quite a few.
     
    The cable is clothed from the 3,5mm connector to the Y-split and from there to the housings it’s a regular rubber cable. There’s some microphonics with this cable. I’m personally not very bothered by micropohinics so it’s not a big deal for me. Wearing the S500i’s over ear does reduce the microphonics. Unfortunately the placing of the microphone makes it rather difficult to wear them over the ear if you’d like to be able to use the mic as well. I’ve got two problems with this cable: First the clothed part has already started to get “fluffy” near the microphone (see picture below) and secondly I find it to be too long. I’ve got no idea why RHA have decided to use a longer cable than the normal 1.2 meter but while travelling with the S500i’s recently I was bothered by the long cable on multiple occasions.
     

    "Fluffy" cloth on the cable.
     
    The build in general seems very solid. The housings are all aluminum and strain relief is in place on all the crucial points. The Y-split is also solid without being overly large.
     
    Left/Right marking are fairly easy to spot and the left side also have a dot on the strain relief so that one can find the left side without looking at them.
     
    The retail package is very nice for a product at this price point.
     
    The accessories pack is decent for the price and includes the following:
    5 pairs medium bore silicon tips  in different sizes.
    1 pair of bi-flange tips
    1 shirt clip
    1 pouch to store them in when not in use
     
    The S500i’s are harder than average to drive but still works fine even with my weak (in power) Sony Z3 Compact phone. Isolation is above average.
     

     
     
    The specs:
    Housing
    Aluminum
    Driver Unit
    Micro Dynamic Driver
    Frequenzy range
    16Hz-22KHz
    Sensitivity
    100dB
    Impedance
    16 Ohms
    Cable lenght
    1.35m

     
    Fit and ergonomics:
    I find the S500i’s to be extremely comfortable. The small housings just disappear even in my narrow ear channels. They’re that sort of IEM’s that you can just put in there and enjoy without any hassle.
    As already mentioned the cable is also a bit too long for my liking and the placement of the mic makes it difficult to wear the S500i’s over the ear.
     
    Isolation is better than average although I’d expected it to be even better given their design. I’ve used them on four 1,5-2 hours flights and although they isolated fairly good even on the  planes the relatively deep insertion made them less ideal to use on flights due to cabin pressure messing up the sound. I’ve also used them for several hours on the train and they worked very well there.
     

     

     

     

     

     

     

     

     
     
    Sound:
    I’ve used these as my main IEM for the last week and they’ve played for well over 100 hours. I’ve used them both around the house and when out and about and I haven’t really found any significant weaknesses in the way they’re designed.
     
    I’ve used them with my Sony Xperia Z3 Compact phone (with and without the Elecom LBT-PAR500) as well as the the CEntrance DACport Slim and they’ve worked very well with all of them.
     
    Demo list:
    Mark Knopfler – Sailing to Philadelphia
    Røyksopp (Feat.Susanne Sundfør) – Save Me
    Ane Brun – These Days
    Michael Jackson – Dirty Diana
    Metallica – Die Die My Darling
    The Peter Malick Group – Immigrant
    Eva Cassidy – Songbird
    Thomas Dybdahl – A Lovestory
    Norah Jones – Don’t Know Why
    Celldweller – Unshakeable
    Jack Johnson – Better Together
    Seinabo Sey – Younger (Kygo remix)
    Dire Straits- So Far Away
    Passenger – Let Her Go
    Lupe Fiasco - Deliver
    Morrissey – Earth Is the Loneliest Planet
     
     
    The overall sound signature on the S500i is fairly well balanced.
     
    The bass is actually pretty perfect in quantity for my preferences and mid-bass is well controlled with very little bass bleed. Despite of this the bass is where I’ve got the biggest problem with the S500i’s. While mid-bass well behaved the lower bass is slightly loose and soft in its character. The bass also lack a bit of speed when there’s a lot going on in the music and I’m also missing the layering in the bass from some more expensive offerings. This is certainly not a deal breaker for me and I still enjoy them quite a bit. Although these are not for bass-heads I don’t feel the bass lacking at all.
     
    The midrange is pretty well balanced with the rest of the frequencies. Although the mid-bass present is well controlled they don’t come across as thin sounding but rather clean and clear. There’s enough fullness to give male voices fundament. There’s also a lift in the higher mids making them quite airy sounding and giving female voices a very natural and enjoyable sound. Vocals in general are very well reproduced and come across as clear and forward without ever being shouty. 
     
    The treble is nice and full without any hint of sibilance. For my preference the treble could have had some more presence and better extension. In total I still find them to have a nice non-intrusive treble presentation.
     
    Clarity and micro details are above average for an IEM at this price point. Soundstage width is slightly above average while depth and high is average for an IEM. .
     
    Comparison:
    Please note that the comments in the comparison section are not in absolute terms but in comparison between subject A and B. This means (as an example) that if subject A is found to be brighter than subject B it does not necessarily mean that subject A is bright sounding in absolute terms. I hope this makes sense.
     
      
    AKG K323xs vs RHA S500i:
    Compared to the S500i’s the K323xs has a slightly smaller soundstage width with a less airy presentation. Soundstage depth and height are pretty similar. The AKG’s also has a less smooth treble and are more prone to sibilance. Apart from this these two are more similar than different with the S500i’s being slightly more refined across the board.
     
    Although the AKG’s are even smaller than the S500i’s I find both of these equally comfortable.  The RHA’s are better built.
     
    They’re both slightly harder than average to drive.
     
    Isolation is good on both of these.
     
    Vsonic VSD3S vs RHA S500i:
    Compared to the S500i’s the VSD3S has a bigger soundstage depth and height while width is similar. The Vsonic also have more bass present giving them a fuller midrange. The RHA’s on the other hand has a fuller treble but with less extension.  The RHA’s also got better clarity and micro details.
     
    I find both of these equally comfortable.  The RHA’s are better built.
     
    The VSD3S are significantly easier to drive.
     
    Isolation is good on both of these.
     
    Brainwavz S0 vs RHA S500i:
    Compared to the S500i’s the S0’s have more bass presence, especially mid-bass. The bigger bass gives the S0 an overall fuller sound. The S500i’s have a more airy presentation with better soundstage in all directions. The RHA’s also feels more refined and once again delivers better details and clarity.
     
    I find both of these equally comfortable and well built.
     
    The SO’s are significantly easier to drive.
     
    Isolation is better on the RHA’s.
     
     
    Summary:
    The S500i’s really been a very nice first encounter for me with RHA products. In the beginning of this review I said that RHA makes some pretty bold claims on what they want to be. I’m very glad to conclude that they indeed deliver what they promise.
     
    The S500i’s taken the place as one of my absolutely favorite sub $50 IEM’s. As a total package it might very well be the best I’ve come across in this price bracket. A well balanced clean sound combined with an excellent build quality, good accessories and a three years warranty makes it a very solid offering and an easy recommendation.
     
    In the future I really hope that RHA comes with a bigger brother to the S500 that keep its overall signature but takes it even further in refinement and extension in both ends. 
  9. potatoe94
    3.5/5,
    "Bang for your buck , RHA does it good."
    Pros - built quality , 3 year warranty
    Cons - sibilant at times , distortion at loud volumes ,
    Unbiased RHA S500i Review

    Firstly, I would like to thank RHA for giving me the opportunity to be one of the 6 members from Head-Fi, selected to review their newly produced unit of the S500i. But do note that this will be a very honest review with no bias to the company RHA.

    Accessories
    the box comes with the unit itself, 2 pair small, and 2 pair medium and 2 pair large dual density silicone tips including a pair of dual flange tips, all seated nicely in a plastic tray. A black plastic clothing clip and a soft drawstring pouch to store your IEM. It also comes with a 3 year warranty so you could enjoy your unit in peace.

    Design
    The S500i were really good their comfort, it may seem like it has a very etymotic design , but well , it does , the fit was swift and quick , not much adjustment needed to get them into your ears comfortably , and it is non-intrusive nor irritating to the ears too . You cannot sleep on your sides with these due to their rod shaped design. It’s a lightweight IEM which very portable and easy to keep in its pouch too, great for busy commuters. Its metallic parts are made of aluminium, different from the MA750’s stainless steel built. However the built is still of excellent quality, and it’s more than you could ask for, for what you actually paid for. The cable is 1.35m long, braided cable from the jack to the splitter. Splitter to housing has rubber cables, which I find to be actually better, I wouldn’t like the braided cables rubbing against my face, however the cables have microphonic noise, which some will find quite irritating when walking with them. When it comes to build quality for the cost, RHA does it like no other company does, and I can hold that phrase up with the review of this unit and their other unit.

    Performance
    The S500i utilizes a micro dynamic driver, which actually delivers an excellent range for the size of the housing , bass were deeper and fuller than you would expect from something this tiny and treble were not intrusive nor harsh. The performance review was done with the use of all FLAC and Hi-Res Files. Do not that almost all RHA IEMs I have tried, requires you to have them burnt in over an extended duration before any testing or judgement can be passed, all of them sounds horrible out of the box with distortion and pops everywhere, sounding very digital. I left them to burn in with my music and about 5% louder volume that what I would listen to, just to flex the drivers to get them comfortable. Tuning is slightly V shaped , with emphasis at bass and treble ends , bass depth and quality that would not bleed into the other spectrums , the treble were light and slightly splashy , sometimes sibilant and unbearable . Distortion comes in at loud volumes, especially around the treble sector, which at times makes you lower your music volume. The mids is slightly recessed. The company claims the sound to be immersive and vibrant, but I think this is only true to those moving up from their phone’s stock tips. It does not deliver emotional ques very well, lacking the ethos and tangibility. Sound is more digital and “pixelised” than rich, smooth and creamy. Soundstage is rather small, with little dimension and instrumental separation. Instrumental Layering is at the level of standard stereo IEMs . Instrumentals lacks the texture and quality . But , all in all , it’s an overachiever for the price you have paid for the unit , it cannot be compared to 100 dollar IEMS , but it’s somewhere there , you get me . Maybe it’s RHA’s method of tuning their IEMS, but I find the lack of richness, smoothness something that I and most consumer would crave for.

    Conclusion
    A very neat and simple review for a very neat and simple IEM. If you are tight on budget and your previous in ears have always died on you, perhaps you would like to take a look at the S500i for a budget replacement, they cover your back for 3 years. And still look expensive with their aluminium built. I would recommend this to my friends who are new to the industry.

     
     
     
     
     


    B9Scrambler and landroni like this.
  10. B9Scrambler
    4.0/5,
    "RHA S500i: The perfect iDevice companion - A review by B9Scrambler"
    Pros - Outstanding build quality - Overall sound quality - Accessories
    Cons - Noisy cable - Microphone performance - Might be too bright for some
     ​

        ​

     ​
    Greetings Head-fi!
     
    Today we are going to be taking a look at the S500i, an awesome new microdriver iem from the folks at RHA. I would like to thank RHA and Iain for selecting me as one of six lucky people to review this great new product. Please keep in mind that I am not affiliated with RHA and all views and opinions expressed within this review are my own.
     
    A little about me:
     
    I am still fairly new to the world of portable audio, only jumping into the game a few years back. JVC’s HA-FXT90 showed me that earphones could sound absolutely amazing at an affordable price. I continued trying out a wide variety of products with varying form factors and driver configurations to find my preferred signature, such as the NarMoo S1 and Dunu Titan 1. In the end, I realized micro dynamic drivers, 6mm and smaller to be specific, are my favorite since they often seem to combine qualities of both dynamic (DD) and balanced armature (BA) drivers. You get the speed and detail of a BA with the bass presentation of a DD. How fitting that RHA, a company I’ve been interested in since first seeing the MA600 online, would come out with a new microdriver earphone? Needless to say, when the first teaser pics were posted a few months back I was pretty ecstatic and couldn’t wait to try them out.
     ​
    Gear and Music:
     
    For the purposes of this review I borrowed a 4[sup]th[/sup] Gen iPod Touch, however the majority of my listening was conducted through an HTC One M8, occasionally accompanied by a Topping NX1 portable headphone amp. Given I was going to be treating these as my everyday earphone for the week prior to writing this review I wasn’t too picky about the music I listened to or the file quality, much like the average consumer. That said, most of my music is in FLAC or 320kb/s format and runs through a variety of genres with my preferred being Drum & Bass. I also listened to quite a bit of Digitally Imported’s Liquid Drum & Bass channel as accessed through Window’s Media Player to get a feel for how they handled low quality files. I have no idea how much play time these have on them at this point, but know it’s quite a bit. They were on non-stop every day at work, used while relaxing at home, and left to “burn” while I slept.
     

                         

     
    Accessories and Packaging:
     
    The S500i’s packaging does a great job of showing off the product without being overly flashy or wasteful. There are three viewing windows divided between the sides of the box, it shows off the tiny aluminum housings, in-line mic, and generous assortment of tips. Given these have an MSRP of only £39.95 / $49.95 / €49,95, the number of tips provided is outstanding. You get two sets each of high quality small, medium, and large silicone tips, plus one set of medium dual flanges. That would have been enough for me, but RHA also includes a shirt clip and carrying pouch. This easily puts other more expensive earphones to shame, especially the micro-driver equipped JVC HA-FXH30. It would be nice to see RHA toss in a pair of extra-small tips to accommodate those with the smallest of ear-canals, and maybe some foam tips too since that seems to be the “in thing” with all the hip kids now-a-days.
     
    Build Quality, Comfort, and Usability:
     
    The S500i is beautifully crafted from aluminum and looks and feels much more premium than most of its competition. The housings are immaculately constructed without any blemishes, odd gaps, or sections that do not line up perfectly. The thick and durable cable follows the popular trend of being sheathed in cloth below the y-split, rubber above leading to the housings. It is terminated in a slender aluminum straight jack with knurling that provides some much needed grip. The housings and jack are well-relieved while the y-split is not. Due to their tiny footprint and absurdly light weight, I can’t see comfort being an issue for anyone. I found isolation to be below average which came as a surprise. Using them at work I could carry on a normal conversation with my colleagues despite sound playing in the background.
     
    There are really only two complaints that I can lever at the S500i when it comes to this section: microphonics and the in-line mic. The cable is absolutely outstanding for a number of reasons (feels very durable, is clearly made of quality materials, and doesn’t tangle) but is let down by intrusive cable noise. Even with the S500i worn with the cable behind the ear, chin cinch up, and the clip securely tethered to my shirt, I still hear a fair bit of bumping and rubbing. These things help reduce microphonics, but I definitely wish the cable transmitted less noise.
     
    The in-line mic is where I have the most issue. The rubber sheath coating the buttons isn’t quite long enough to fill in the gaps at either end, so I fully expect dust and dirt to work its way in and cause issues down the road. The buttons themselves lack much in the way of tactile feedback so it can be hard to tell when you’ve applied enough pressure. This is definitely something that you would get used to in time but it’s hard to deny that a solid click feels much more satisfying than the faint echo of one. On the plus side, interaction with the iPod Touch was great. I was able to pause/play, skip between tracks and fast-forward and rewind without issue once I became accustomed to the amount of pressure required to depress the buttons. The relief plugs at either end of the mic setup were also poorly seated, one glued noticeably deeper into the housing than the other. Keep in mind that none of this would have stood out if the rest of the earphone wasn’t so immaculately crafted. All that being said, it looks like the same setup used on many of their other products including their newest flagship the T20i and I’ve never heard any durability complaints so maybe my worries are for naught. Plus, there is a generous 3 year warranty backing the S500i.
     
    Microphone performance was also a bit of a letdown. Yes, my callers verified that my voice was very clear, but they also complained quite a bit about other noises; rubbing, cars, bumping, clicking, etc. I heard them too unfortunately. When standing perfectly still in a quiet room these were non-issues, but in motion or in a busy area external noise was highly intrusive. When compared to the in-line setup on the JVC FRD series earphones, the S500i definitely falls a bit short. With the FRD60 I was able carry on a full conversation in a windstorm without my caller realizing I was outside.
     
    One final positive and one that I think many will overlook involves none other than…safety! You will find the S500i has a neat little trick up its sleeve when you look closely at the chin slider. On one cable, there is a small slit that allows the slider to detach. This saved me from some potential cable/ear damage when I caught it on a door handle with the chin slider in use. The slider detached and prevented the earphones from being yanked painfully from my ears, but also gave the cable some extra slack so what would have been a violent tug was severely lessened. Other manufacturers need to consider this quiet feature.
     

                         

     
    Sound:
     
    With the exception of the in-line mic (I’ll give the cable a pass since it aids in the S500i’s tiny-tank appeal) RHA has nailed it so far. You will be pleased to know that they sound absolutely outstanding too. All testing was done with stock medium tips since I felt there was no need try alternatives.
     
    As with the driver size, the sound signature is a bit of a departure from what users familiar with RHA have come to expect. The S500i is an earphone on the brighter side without the warm sound and big bass other RHA products are known for. For a first go at producing a microdriver, RHA has crafted a finely tuned and honed earphone.
     
    Treble can get a little strident and edgy at high volumes but is for the most part quite well-controlled. It never comes across as splashy but can sound a touch thin. On the plus side, this helps aid in the awesome clarity and detail which easily outpaces anything else at this price point that I’ve come across. Mids are quite forward and the S500i handles guitars and drums with aplomb. The S500i is godly for rock music, and shines especially well with male vocals. I found female vocals came off a touch cold and feel that a bit of added warmth throughout the entire frequency range would be helpful. Bass is slightly boosted above what I would consider a neutral level, never becoming overpowering or bleeding into the mids. I found it surprisingly punchy and that it dug nicely into sub-bass regions as well. Never did I feel the S500i was bass shy or could use more, however, if you feel otherwise they are quite receptive to equalization.
     
    The S500i has a spacious soundstage and presents a nice airy feel. Separation seems to be pretty good overall, but it gives up quite a bit to JVC’s HA-FXH30 in stereo imaging and layering. The S500i avoids a “wall-of-sound” effect, but only just barely.
     
    Brief Comparisons:
     
    VSonic VSD2 (50.00 SGD from Lend Me Ur Ears, or 42.00 USD through PenonAudio)
     
    When I first listened to the S500i, the first thing that popped into my head was “less bassy VSD2”. They're both a bit cold, trebly, and have a great soundstage. Sitting and listening to them back-to-back, bass quantity is actually quite similar with the S500i having better texture and speed. Mids on the S500i are more forward, but the VSD2 handles female vocals more capably due to a slightly warmer sound. Treble on the S500i is tighter and overall more refined. I don't really see any reason to recommend the VSD2 over the S500i, unless all you want is a bit more bass and great isolation. Otherwise the S500i is less expensive, better built, cleaner sounding, smaller, and more refined. They even have a mic-free version, the S500, available through Amazon.com for a paltry 39.95 USD with free shipping if you don't need/want a mic.
     
    JVC HA-FXH30 (as low as 51.00 USD on Amazon.com)
     
    When the S500i was finally revealed, I couldn't wait to compare them to the FXH30. The FXH30 bested the Titan 1 which had been my favorite earphone since picking it up earlier in the year through Massdrop. While I didn't expect the S500i to be better, and it isn't, it certainly puts up a darn good fight.
     
    Treble extension on both earphones is fantastic, however the FXH30 and their titanium coating take the lead. They offer up even more detail, the perfect amount of shimmer and sparkle, and regardless of volume or recording quality never seem to come across harsh or edgy. Just refined. The FXH30 take a bow to the S500i in the mids. Mids on the FXH30 are very similar in texture and quality to those on the S500i, but are pulled back a touch too much in comparison. The FXH30 is more accomplished with female vocals since they are a noticeably warmer sounding earphone, but that's not enough to dethrone the S500i. Bass on both earphones is outstanding, but the FXH30 backs up the quality with even great speed, accuracy, flawless decay, and some serious sub-bass rumble when called upon. The FXH30 outputs bass in a visceral and engaging way that most earphones only dream about. The FXH30 also bests the S500i in soundstage presentation. I'm a sucker for a spacious soundstage which the FXH30 does not excel at, unlike the S500i. This is given a pass due to the way the JVC uses it's soundstage. Their sense of depth and ability to layer sounds is like nothing I've experienced, and is something the S500i unfortunately can't touch.
     
    When you consider the complete package; build quality, comfort, accessories, and sound quality, the S500i is the one to choose. If sound quality alone is your primary focus, hands down the FXH30 is your micro-dynamic must buy.
     
    NarMoo W1M (Currently 39.99 USD on Amazon.com, or 49.99 through NarMoo.com)
     
    While this may seem like an odd match-up, I think the W1M is a great counterpart to the S500i. Where the RHA uses a single 6mm microdriver and focuses on treble and mids, NarMoo tuned the dual driver W1M with mids and bass in mind. The S500i is brighter, clearer, quicker, and more detailed. The W1M offers up deeper bass, relaxed treble, smoother upper mids, and markedly better isolation. The ability to work with both Android and Apple devices is a big plus. Both earphones are built like tanks. I recommend checking out the NarMoo if you are sensitive to treble and want an easy listening Apple compatible device that won't put a big drain on your budget.
     

                         

     ​
    Overall Thoughts and Feelings:
     
    I am very happy that RHA dove into the realm of dynamic microdriver earphones. The S500i is an amazingly good product for a variety of reasons. Great build and material quality? Check! Generous accessory package? Check! Superb sound output? Check! And the list goes on. Any issues I have are mostly nitpicking at this price point, and there really isn’t anything that could compete when considering the complete package, not even my beloved FXH30.
     
    Are there improvements that could be made? For sure. I wish they were slightly warmer sounding with a more dynamic and flexible soundstage. Eliminate the cable noise and improve the overall call experience. These issues aside, the S500i is a stellar new product and one I am thrilled I was given the opportunity to review. Thank you again RHA! I hope you continue to build on the foundation set by the S500i and that its predecessors continue to provide such outstanding quality from top to bottom. For now, we can enjoy what is easily a top tier budget earphone.
     
    Thanks for reading! Comments and feedback are encouraged.
     
     
    - B9Scrambler
     


     ​
     ​
    jant71, warrenpchi and Light - Man like this.