Keeper of The All-New Headphone Buyer's Guide
- Feb 17, 2010
I'd like to thank Isabel from RHA for coming to me to review these headphones, they were a pleasant surprise. Another pleasant surprise is the RHA giveaway contest where they are giving away their full line of headphones to a lucky winner! Be sure to enter as it's quick and easy.
[size=medium]Pros: Good fit with stock tips, clarity is good for the price, great balance for the price with good extension on both ends, detail is good for the price
Cons: Cord tangles a bit easy, lack of tips could lead to a poor fit, bland looking, narrow soundstage
Preferred Music: I’ve been loving clean acoustic music, especially those with banjos in it, and rock music have been favorites through these[/size]
[size=medium]Home: Musicbee (Wasapi) -> ODAC -> O2
Portable: iPod Classic[/size]
[size=medium]As with almost every other sub-$100 IEM the MA-350 are packaged as such. There’s nothing of note here different than, say, the Brainwavz M5. You get the typical rectangle thin cardboard box with a window. RHA has decided to go with a black and orange color scheme and there’s ample information on the box. The box opens up top with the headphones seated in a clear plastic housing with the tips right below it inside the carrying case which is made of black velour with a small tag with the RHA logo and a drawstring to close the top. As for tips, you’re only getting a set of small, medium and large mushroom tips.[/size]
[size=medium]Build Quality and Design[/size]
[size=medium]When I first looked at the MA-350 nothing caught my eye, in-fact my first impression wasn’t good at all. They look cheap and I’ve had nothing but bad experiences with fabric cables. The housings are made of lightweight aluminum and are shaped in such a manner that doesn’t look comfortable at all. The front part of the IEM is tapered down to a wide port that’s protected by a mesh screen made of some sort of metal, while the back side appears to be made of black plastic with RHA stamped in light grey. Below that a rather long and flexible stress relief extends from the housing with a R or L embossed on the sleeve, but it’s hard to tell sometimes without a closer look. The cable is fabric and in the past I’ve had nothing but bad experiences, from increased microphonics to terrible tangling problems. The MA-350 share the tangling problems, but not as bad as others I’ve used and I’m surprised that there’s no microphonics problems, at least when worn over ear. At the y-split there’s an RHA stamp and a simple sinch. The cables join as one here making a thicker cable and eventually terminating into a straight plug. Length wise I feel that these are perfect, I have no problems with the cable getting hung up on things nor is it too short to fit into one of my pants pockets.
The MA-350 only come with 3 pairs of mushroom tips, S/M/L, thankfully though I was able to get a great fit with the mediums giving a great seal and good comfort. The housing may look goofy, but there’s no rub or irritation on my outer ear unlike what I’ve experienced with other IEMs that have semi-deep insertion like the MA-350. Microphonics are non-existent with the MA-350 worn over-ear, which is my preferred fit for these. Isolation is average here, without music playing I can still hear keystrokes and I can hear my feet hit the ground when walking, but when music is playing at a reasonable volume all is blocked.[/size]
[size=medium]I gave the MA-350 50 hours of burn-in and have been using them often for the past two weeks, with at least 100 hours of listen time. No significant burn-in was noticed, these are good to go out of the box.
The lows are where the MA-350 will beat many other IEMs in this price bracket and no it’s not due to the quantity, it’s due to the quality. To expand on that, the MA-350 extends down very low with good clarity and decent detail, in-fact I couldn’t find a song that the MA-350 couldn’t replicate in the sub-bass regions to a more than adequate level. The sub-bass has a nice presence and in certain cases a pleasant rumble. Two notable songs are The xx Fantasy and Kanye West’s Monster, both songs have some strong sub-bass that will properly shake a car with a decent subwoofer. The MA-350 certainly don’t have that power, but the sub-bass is strong and in Kanye’s case even has a nice rumble. Despite good presence and strength unless the song calls for extreme sub-bass it finds a nice balance in it, such as in The xx song Islands which has a few deep sub-bass sections intertwined with the mids and mid-bass and compliments them well.
The midbass is done rather decently too, bass guitars are easy to discern in any decently recorded song and it’s easy to pick out the notes thanks to the clarity in the bass. There’s no muddling of the bass here that tends to happen on other sub-$100 IEMs, I’m looking at you Brainwavz M5. On the other hand I do feel that the midbass could use a little more punch to it and a bit more separation, kick drums give a little thump and toms sound pretty good, but I feel they need a little more authority and at times feel congested. You can’t have everything though and at this price the bass is done nicely here.
I’m a sucker for mids, a lot of the music I listen to is mid-centric so it was much to my pleasure to listen to the MA-350. The first reason I say this is because there is only a very slight bleed of the bass into the mids, but I’m being a pedant here. The mids have a great presence with a forward slightly aggressive feel to them. Vocals tend to be pushed most forward with rather good clarity, though there is a bit of grain even on excellent recordings. That hasn’t stopped me from greatly enjoying stuff like Frank Ocean where the vocals and lyrics are the primary focus. The grain does detract a bit from the experience though and there’s a bit more sibilance than other IEMs I’ve used in this price bracket. Still Sara Bareilles powerful voice sounds great.
Aside from vocals I’ve greatly enjoyed acoustic recordings as they have a very crisp sound to them. Fiddles, banjos, and acoustic guitars sound great, especially at this price range.
The highs aren’t the focus here, but there’s good representation of them overall. Cymbals and hi-hats overall sound okay, sometimes feeling a bit distant in comparison to the rest of the drum set as do horns at times, especially when they are the instrument of focus. The highs are rather clean though with the horns having a light grain, but a nice full quality to them, most notably on Rubblebucket’s Came Out of a Lady.
The sound of the MA-350 is decent overall, good for the price, the problem is that the sound is a bit congested at times which takes away detail, causing instruments to clash and fight for space in the sound. There’s not much depth or width to the sound stage which takes away from songs that rely on panning to envelop the listener. The sound isn’t completely flat in depth, but there’s not much to it and width wise I’m reminded of a local band playing in a basement. I’ve enjoyed music more that has little going on, the more layers added to the music the more congested these get.[/size]
[size=medium]The MA-350 can be had for $40 on Amazon right now and for that price I feel that they are a decent value, but I don’t love them at this price. My biggest cons with these is the lack of accessories which could end in a poor fit and the narrow soundstage. Overall I feel the MA-350 are a good value though and if you have spare tips then these are worth trying and these make a great Christmas gift for your friend or family member who wants good quality sound at an affordable price.[/size]
[size=medium]Come see more pictures of the MA-350 here.[/size]