RHA S500i review

RHA has designed a sub-£40 earphone that comes with an in-line mic which works on both Android and iOS devices. It’s very minimalistic approach and yet elegant design is a refreshing take on cheap earphones. The biggest question for most listeners who are upgrading from their stock Apple or Samsung (among other manufacturer) earphones is: Can they provide a better sound for an additional £40 investment in sound? Read on to find out. 

RHA S500i earphone review: Price and competition

The RHA S500i has a recommended price of £39.95, which is the price you can expect to pay - there are no real discounts. They can be bought from a variety of different resellers, such as from Apple and at various eBay sellers. If mic controls are not something crucial for you, RHA offers the regular S500, which can be found for £29.95 on Amazon.

The RHA S500i therefore sits at a very competitive price, where there’s a lot of competition which challenge the RHA S500is overall package.  For example, the SoundMAGIC E10S at around £40, the Ultimate Ears 400vi at around £26 and even the Klipsch Image S3m at around £20, which are all earphones with in-line mics. Finally with less than £5 extra you can purchase our current favourite budget earphone the Rock Jaw Alfa Genus V2 at around £45.

We will therefore compare the RHA S500i to other earphones within its price category. For more on those, see: Best budget headphones 2016

RHA S500i earphone review: Build quality, design and comfort

Within the elegantly designed package you’ll find the S500i earphones, six pairs of ear tips (Sx2/Mx2 /Lx2) and one pair of small double flange ear tips, an ear tip holder, a soft carrying pouch and a shirt clip. For its given price, you’re given a lot of extras for your money which is a pleasant surprise.

The build quality of the RHA S500i is very impressive, especially due to its brushed aluminium look and very minimalistic design, which reminded us of the Etymotic Research HF5 and the Klipsch X11i.

Also read: How to stop earphone cables getting tangled or twisted.

The earphone is terminated by a regular gold-plated straight 3.5mm jack and has a fabric-type of cable. Speaking of which, we were disappointed to hear microphonics (cable noise) present with the S500i earphones, where we were forced to use them over-the-ear to eliminate any cable noise. This might take some getting used to, over the way you wear the regular earphones that come with most smartphones. Read more: Best sounding phone 2016.

The biggest feature here is its 3-button in-line mic, which works flawlessly with iOS devices, where you’ll be able to adjust the volume, paly/pause and even change song by double/triple clicking on the centre button. However on Android, we were not able to increase and decrease the volume of our songs, but able to do all other actions through the earphones.

Finally, we found the earphones comfortable to wear for prolonged listening due to the earphone’s lightweight and minimalistic design. However, through its small in-ear design we noticed a lack of passive noise isolation, which affected us in commutes. 

RHA S500i earphone review: Sound quality

The RHA S500i provide an interesting sound signature, where in comparison to its direct competitors provided a very sharp and mid-centric sound. We found the bass quantity of the earphones to be somewhat overpowered; where there was an over bloated emphasis in the mid-bass region, but a lack of extension through the sub-bass, meaning you would hear a large bass slam without much low-end extension.

The mids are definitely its main asset, where the sound is forward-sounding and has a good mids reproduction, given its £39.95 price tag. We found the mids to be well presented and provide a good tonality. Its highs were also very well presented with great extension through the high frequencies and a lively sparkle. However, we did find them to be a little sibilant, where they would cause ear fatigue after an hour of listening.

Finally, we found its soundstage to be somewhat lacking and we felt this might be due to its small housing design. Due to it being physically small, the in-ear drivers had little room to breathe and therefore provided a somewhat small and narrow sound, which was a shame given all its potential.

Overall, we were impressed of its sound quality, given its price tag and would definitely recommend them to anyone looking for minimalistic designed earphones, which have an emphasis on the mids; especially to those who want to upgrade their sound quality over the stock earbuds provided by leading phone manufacturers.

RHA S500i: Specs

  • 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
  • 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

OUR VERDICT

The RHA S500i earphones provide excellent value for money, and they're affordable to most people. With its mid-centric sound and minimalist design we were impressed by the overall package. This small set of earphones easily make their way on our recommended budget headphone list.

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