Headphones and Earphones
- Written by Stephen Hornbrook
- Published on 15 October 2013
Design, In Use, and Rating of the RBH EP2 Noise Isolating Earphones
The RBH EP2's use a 13mm Dynamic Dome driver housed inside a sturdy aluminum casing. A woven cloth cord trickles down from the earbuds to the in-line controls for use with an iPhone, Android, or other smartphone. This controller has a single button for communicating with your phone and a tiny hole where the microphone sits. The cable is 1.2m in length, which should be long enough for all but the tallest of people. The EP2's come with a selection of silicon ear tips and the highly regarded Comply foam tips. I have used Comply tips before and can attest to how well they work with one exception: they are not durable enough. The Comply tips I originally bought only survived a couple months of regular usage before falling apart. I am happy that they are included with the EP2's as they provide excellent fit and just the right seal for both noise isolation and bass extension. With Comply you are getting performance at the expense of durability.
The fit and comfort of the EP2's exceeds my expectations. Sometimes earbuds are too heavy, leading to a lack of comfort and issues with them staying in your ears. RBH uses the proper materials to provide a rigid structure while being lightweight and it makes a difference. With a little initial fidgeting, I don't have to continually re-insert or adjust the earphones. I would prefer a slightly longer cable, it is a suitable length and the woven fabric sheathing resists tangling. My only complaint about the material used for the cable is that it seems to conduct more noise from movement friction than other, smoother materials. When running, the jostling of the cable against my chest conducted muffled noise to my ears. This seems to be a common occurrence with earbuds that use this type of material for the cable and it is something I noticed more of when using the silicone tips over the Comply foam tips.
I used the RBH EP2 earphones with a couple of setups. First was a PC running Foobar2000 and a Meridian Explorer USB DAC. Second was hooked directly up to an iPhone. The RBH's are sensitive enough to be driven with ease by an iPhone, so a separate amp is purely optional for those that like to squeeze the best performance out of their earphones.
On The Black Keys' El Camino track "Little Black Submarines" Dan Auerbach's voice sits up on stage, outside the flat plane most earphones produce. His voice has dimension and space to it, where you can close your eyes and imagine him in the same room as you. The EP2's have a lot of atmosphere and depth to the soundstage for an earphone. Well more than I expected.
Every track I throw at the EP2 earphones from the Ennio Morricone Platinum Collection is represented with all the grace and delicacy the Maestro deserves. Woodwinds have the sharp attack and breathy finish I look for in sound reproduction. Instruments have texture to their sounds, something you get with high-end planar-magnetic cans. Sounds appear to come from outside of my headspace as the EP2's have a very wide soundstage for in-ear speakers.
Joanna Newsom's voice on her Have One On Me album has the proper weight, body, and dimension. The piano, strings, and harp take backstage to her voice, creating wonderful atmosphere to the music.
The bass extension is exceptional on John Mayer's "The Age of Worry" from Born and Raised. The large drums push out a gasp of air that you can almost feel with the EP2's. Bass guitar is tight, full, and well defined. I feel like I was getting the full audio spectrum on the RBH earphones.
I found using the one button control located at the left and right Y-split of the EP2 cable to be simple and straightforward for the basic tasks. Answering a call, pausing and playing music are single button clicks. Skipping tracks is the familiar two-button click, but anything beyond that would take some training. I don't do a lot with in-line controls, so the one button works fine for me. I can see how it can be intimidating if you don't have the instruction manual laying in front of you.
I've heard a large number of earbuds, in-ear speakers, earphones, ear-canal-imbedded-sound-wave-machines and similar-named devices. Most suffer from one or many common problems: lack of bass, uncomfortable fit, insecure fit, or just overall poor performance (ahem, APPLE). What RBH has done with the EP2's is eliminate those common issues and create an amazing sounding earphone. They are comfortable to wear and provide an ideal seal for sound reproduction with the use of Comply tips. They have deep, tight bass, plenty of detail, and exceptional depth for an earphone in this price range. The RBH EP2 earphones rises above the masses as a top notch performer.