RHA (Reid & Heath Acoustics) MA-350 Earphone (IEM) review

Discussion in 'Headphone Reviews' started by dalethorn, Dec 25, 2012.

  1. dalethorn

    dalethorn Obsessive Auditor

    Jul 3, 2011
    Charleston South Carolina
    Youtube video review: RHA MA-350 Stereo Earphone (IEM) review by Dale - YouTube

    Sources: iPhone4 alone, iPhone4 with FiiO E17 using LOD, various computers using Audioengine D1 DAC and the D1's headphone out.

    Note_1: This earphone was supplied by the manufacturer. Since I'm not a professional reviewer and don't accept contributions, my rule is this: If it doesn't sound like something I would purchase myself and keep, it goes back without review. To date I've received only three such items, the German Maestro 8.35D, the Marley Exodus, and this RHA MA-350.

    Note_2: I'm not an IEM specialist, so if I miss any important IEM issues, it's because I'm evaluating the RHA MA-350 (abbreviated herein as MA350) as I would any ordinary headphone, by listening only. My impressions of the sound are based on the ear-canal fit I was able to achieve with the medium-size eartips. Users who insert the earpieces deeper into their ear canals or use different eartips than what I used may experience a deeper bass and/or less-enhanced treble - i.e. a darker or richer sound than what I heard with the MA350.

    First impression of the MA350: Strong bass and treble. Whereas the bass is just splendid and will be welcomed by 99 percent of purchasers, the highs contrast with most modern headphones that are treble-shy, and I think most users of the MA350 will choose a modicum of treble reduction, as I did for this review. I ran test tones from the midrange down through the bass, and the lows held up with just a slight rolloff by the time I got to 30 hz. Going from the mids up through the treble, the output was elevated from approximately 3 to 5 khz - the strongest around 4 khz. As I noted above, this is with a slight reduction in the upper treble, and although the un-EQ'd upper treble would partially mask this effect, the treble reduction I chose gave me the best sound. The worst case anyone should expect without EQ would be a moderate increase in brightness and sibilants, or playing things my way a smidgen of hardness or increased "live"-ness in the presense region.

    The above limitations aside, my summary of the sound is it's typical in certain ways of the better IEM's - clarity and detail are better than most full-size headphones, probably because full-size headphones have much larger drivers that make greater excursions in producing sound, and because the sound within large earcups bounces around causing some smearing of detail. The overall sound is smooth enough that besides what I noted above, any other differences from my better headphones will vary from track to track depending on where the major energies occur in those tracks. The MA350 I got came with 3 sets of rubber eartips (the middle size fits me perfectly), and a larger and smaller set. The cable (with no controls) is about as perfect a cable as I've seen - thin and light, but woven in a pattern that looks very strong. The cable is microphonic, so if you're walking around while listening, you might need a cable clip. A cute little cloth/felt bag is included for stashing the earphone and extra tips etc.

    In other reviews I've done I've included the following music examples with comments about how the headphones sound with each track. My suggestion is instead of reading each one as an absolute unto itself, you could compare my notes here to other reviews and see how the MA350 compares with each individual track.

    Bauhaus - Bela Lugosi's Dead (~1980): Strong midrange sound effects - this is a good worst-case test for resonant-type sounds in the most sensitive midrange area. The MA350 sounds slightly hard or 'glassy' in some places here. Interestingly, the Beethoven selection below is one of the brighter 9ths that I have, with a great deal of energy in the upper mids and lower treble, yet I don't hear any harshness there even on the large crescendos.

    Beethoven Symphony 9, Solti/CSO (1972): Excellent overall sound and particularly striking how the MA350 reproduces the triangles, bells and other background instruments that are often obscured with other headphones that have limited high frequency response. Of special note for this earphone are the bass impacts beginning around 10:30 of the fourth movement. Those impacts won't overwhelm you since they're soft and well in the background, but you can feel some of the weight they carry.

    Blues Project - Caress Me Baby (1966): Rarely mentioned, but one of the greatest white blues recordings ever. The loud piercing guitar sound at 0:41 into the track is a good test for distortion or other problems. Handled OK here.

    Boz Scaggs - Lowdown (1976): Good sound quality - this is a great test for any nasality in the midrange. Handled perfectly by the MA350.

    Buffalo Springfield - Kind Woman (~1968): A Richie Furay song entirely, rarely mentioned, but one of the best sounding rock ballads ever. This will sound good on most headphones, but it's a special treat with the MA350.

    Cat Stevens - Morning Has Broken (early 70's): A near-perfect test for overall sound - this track will separate the best sounding headphones from the lesser quality types. Nothing specific, except that almost any deviation from perfect reproduction will stand out with this track. Sounds good on the MA350.

    Catherine Wheel - Black Metallic (~1991): Goth with industrial overtones - I like this since it's a great music composition and the sound effects are smoothly integrated into the mix. This may sound distorted or mushy with some headphones, but the MA350 renders the deliberate instrumental distortions clearly.

    Def Leppard - Bringin' On The Heartbreak (1981): MTV goth/pop/metal at its best - good ambience and high energy - the better headphones will separate the details and make for a good experience. Lesser quality and the details tend to mush together. Sounds good with the MA350.

    J.S. Bach - E. Power Biggs Plays Bach in the Thomaskirche (~1970): Recorded on a tracker organ in East Germany, the tracks on this recording have the authentic baroque sound that Bach composed for, albeit the bellows are operated by motor today. The MA350 plays the tones seamlessly through the upper limits of the organ, which cover nearly the full range of human hearing. Of special note are the pedal notes - tracker organs have low-pressure pipes and don't typically produce the kind of impact around 30-35 hz that modern organs do. A headphone that's lacking in the low bass will especially sound bass-shy with this type of organ, but the MA350 delivers the full experience of this music.

    Jamming With Edward - It Hurts Me Too (1969): Intended originally as a test to fill studio down time and set recording levels etc., this was released a few years later for hardcore Rolling Stones fans. Although not as good technically in every aspect as the Chess studio recordings of 1964, and in spite of the non-serious vocals by Mick Jagger, this rates very high on my list of white blues recordings, and sounds pretty good with the MA350.

    Jennifer Warnes - Rock You Gently (1992?): The strong deep bass percussion at the beginning of this track has been cited as a test for weakness or distortion in certain headphones. The MA350 plays those notes with great impact and control. Having played this track a number of times now, I'm highly impressed with the MA350's bass reproduction and detail throughout the track.

    Jimmy Smith - Basin Street Blues (early 60's): This track has some loud crescendos of brass and other instruments that don't sound clean and musical on some headphones. The MA350 provides excellent reproduction. Listen particularly to the second crescendo at 15 seconds in, for maximum detail effect. I'd like to emphasize that these crescendos are probably the worst-case test I have for instrumental separation and detail, and the MA350 aces them.

    Ladytron - Destroy Everything You Touch (~2009): Featured in The September Issue, this song has heavy overdub and will sound a bit muddy on some headphones. Sounds great with the MA350.

    Milt Jackson/Wes Montgomery - Delilah (Take 3) (1962): The vibraphone is heavily dependent on harmonics to sound right, and the MA350 plays it superbly.

    Pink Floyd/Dark Side of the Moon - Speak To Me (1973): Strong deep bass impacts will be heard and felt here.

    Rolling Stones - Stray Cat Blues (1968): Dirty, gritty blues that very few white artists could match. On some headphones the vocals and guitar lack the edge and fall more-or-less flat. If you're a really good person, playing this song will probably make you feel nervous and uneasy. Sounds good with the MA350.

    Tony Bennett - I Left My Heart In San Francisco (1962): Frank Sinatra's favorite singer. Highest recommendation. With some of the best headphones, the sibilants on this recording are very strong, but they're not too bad with the MA350.
  2. RobinHiFi

    RobinHiFi Super Moderator

    Apr 28, 2010
    I really liked these when I tried them! There are literally hundreds of sub-£40 earphones to choose from but these are one of the few pairs it is really worth looking at. I think there is a maximum quality you can really squeeze out of a dynamic earphone at this type of price and several models are pretty much at that point -

    SoundMAGIC E10

    RHA MA-350

    And well worth looking at the DUNU range although prices are a bit all over the place.

    These sound amazing but really are quite odd looking!

  3. Earmass

    Earmass Well Balanced

    Dec 27, 2012
    I hope I can hand on on the Quarkie as well. RHA MA350 has became my on work earphone,it is really good :)

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