RHA is a name that fans of high-end in-ear headphones should know well, and for good reason. We’ve reviewed the T20i from them in the past, and while they’re certainly on the high-end in terms of pricing, they have excellent sound and build quality.
Not everyone can afford to spend quite so much on a pair of in-ear headphones, and this is why the Scotland-based company now offers the S500 (available as the S500i with a microphone and controls). These headphones retail for around $50-$60, which make them a more budget-minded offering, but do they deliver at this price point?
With the S500i, you’re not going to find the swappable filters that make RHA’s T10 and T20 so interesting, but the company’s attention to detail is certainly present. At $60, the RHA S500i also fit within the budgets of many more consumers.
The box holding the RHA S500i opens from the bottom, so the first thing you’ll find is the included carrying pouch. Next up are the headphones, followed by a card holding the additional ear tips.
Like other in-ears we’ve seen from RHA, there is only one finish option here: brushed metal. Fortunately, this look is just as striking with the S500i as it is in the T10 and T20. This is no mere faux-metal finish either, the enclosures are constructed from aluminum alloy.
RHA has taken a unique approach to the cable, using braided fabric on the bottom for improved durability. While this is tough, it can get tangled easier, so the upper half of the cable uses the more standard TPE material running from the mic and remote up to the enclosures.
Despite the heavy-duty construction, the S500i are surprisingly light. This also makes them quite comfortable, assuming you find yourself a good fit among the included ear tips. There are three varieties here with two pairs each of small, medium, and large single-flange silicone tips, as well as one pair of double-flange silicone tips.
The built-in mic and remote were made with iOS in mind, so while the controls will work fine with an iPad or iPhone, you might find yourself out of luck if you’re an Android user. As with other headphones from RHA, these are also available as an S500 model, which doesn’t feature a built-in mic and remote. If you’re not an iOS user, this may be the way to go.
The bass levels on the headphones were surprisingly good given the tiny enclosures. Granted, these aren’t going to produce enough bass to satisfy those looking for a Beats or Skullcandy level of bass overkill, but there is plenty of thump to kick drums and rumble to bass guitar.
The midrange, on the other hand, is quite hard to find. Unlike the relatively neutral sound signature in RHA’s higher-end offerings, the S500i opt for the approach of plenty of bass, plenty of treble, almost no mids.
Treble can be overbearing at times, but this wasn’t noticeable so much with music as it was with voice calls and Skype calls. With music, the results were much better, with plenty of detail. The S500i can get fairly loud without distortion.
Overall, the RHA S500i are tuned in a more “mainstream” fashion than the other products we’ve reviewed from this company. If you’re looking for the level of fidelity present in the T10, you’re probably going to have to pay more, but if you’re just looking to blast your tunes as you make your way through your day, these will get the job done.
The RHA S500i are certainly a decent pair of earbuds, and the included accessories are more than we expect in this price range. The construction is sturdy, but super-small enclosures might not be enough to pack enough of an audio punch that most musicians would be looking for.
On the other hand, if you’re looking to spend no more than $50 and want a pair of headphones that will last you for years, the three-year warranty certainly makes these an attractive option. Click here to check out RHA’s headphones from Amazon.ca.