Headphones and Earphones
- Published on 16 December 2013
The Design, In-Use, and Rating of the RHA MA750i Earphones
There are two overriding features one encounters when first unpacking the MA750i's: build quality and attention to detail. Those who've read my prior headphone reviews know that I am admittedly hard on my units. In NYC, I leave the house everyday making sure I have four things with me: my wallet, my keys, my phone and my headphones – they are that much a part of my life. That kind of constant use means that I'm hard on my stuff: I'm constantly taking my headphones in and out, throwing them in a backpack (not always having all that much regard for where they go and what ends up on top of them) or draping them around my neck. As a result, even units that are billed as "rugged" often fail me well within a few months of use. Now, while I've only had the opportunity to use the MA750i's for a month, I'm relatively certain that these units are built to last. The build quality of the MA750i's is top notch and many of the details seem specifically suited for long life. Let's start at the bottom. The chord connection to the plug is reinforced with a stiff spring.
Those who've had headphones fail know this is a prime spot for issues to develop. The spring here prevents any odd angles and extreme pressure in any one direction and I'm guessing will minimize the possibility cord issues to develop here. Moving to the cord itself – it is thick – among the thickest that I've seen in a headphone of this type. RHA says that the cord is "Steel reinforced, oxygen-free cable" – I'll take their word for it on the steel reinforcing – but handling it, it certainly seems like there might be steel in there. Either way, the cord itself is burly, and seems capable of also taking a large amount of abuse before ever giving in.
Moving up to the in-line mic and control – this is easily the stoutest control unit I've seen. The unit is made of stainless steel and doesn't feel flimsy in the slightest. Again, in-line controls are notorious spots for headphone failure. Even in pricey units, the controls can feel flimsy, to the point where it is simply a matter of time before they stop working. The RHA control unit feels the exact opposite of that. The unit is sturdy, with no excess movement among the parts. The clicks for controls are smooth and certain. Again, in terms of build quality, the controller is among the nicest I've ever used at any price point.
Finally, the buds themselves – also stainless steel and also solid. I have no doubt that these guys will last the test of time…with several drops along the way. And RHA knows they've built a solid product – the MA750i's come with a three year warranty – there may be other companies who offer longer…but this is certainly at the top end that I know of.
Was there anything that I didn't like about the construction? Well, that thick cord and inline mic/controller…it is heavy…definitely among the heaviest in that I've ever used. Is this problematic? Depends on how you use your stuff. In the gym, I found the weight swung around a bit more than I'd like. The cord is also a tad long for my liking at 8.3". When you combine that length with the thickness and weight of the cord, the unit itself is a bit tough to wrap-up and tuck away in a pocket. Lastly, while the connector is clearly top notch, and very unlikely to ever break, you'll want to make sure to test it with your case. I had some issues with my Grove Made iPhone 5 case. RHA tells me that my production units have a smaller connector, so this issue might have been resolved, but I wasn't able to take a look at a newer unit to verify this.
Lastly, while not really a complaint, the MA750i's can only be used wrapped over the ear – not straight down – appropriate given the weight of the overall unit, but if you don't like this wearing method, there is really no alternative given the shape of the cabling around the ear.
RHA opted to go overboard on the number of tips included with the MA750i, and this is definitely a good thing. The company provides no less than 10 (yes, 10), different sized tips, including double flanged and memory foam. The memory foam tips that are included aren't as good as those from Comply, but they work well enough. With this type of selection, even those with finicky or difficult to fit ears should be able to find a tip that will work.
The MA750i's make use of RHA's 560.1 driver – an in-house designed and executed unit that was intended to provide optimal sound and efficiency. Sound quality overall was admirable, with good bass extension, detail and uniformity.
The recently arrived Phish "Niagra Falls" three disc set has topped my playlist these last few weeks (especially as I get very excited for this years NYE run). Recorded live in December 1995, this album features a complete show from just before the band really exploded to be a true arena act. The show was recorded on 2-track DAT by Phish's longtime sound engineer, Paul Languedoc. "Strange Design" is one of Phish's lesser known songs, but it is most certainly one of my favorites. Played through an Oppo BDP-105 as a headphone amp, MA750i's did an excellent job of resolving Page McConnell's vocals and keyboards, providing good balance, but never sounding overly revealing or harsh. Though I don't listen to many music MP3's, I find that these early Phish shows can often be a good proxy for mediocre material because recording quality can vary, even within a given show. The MA750i's were never too forward or overly revealing. Sound reproduction felt accurate all around.
One of my favorite radio stations, wMVY, broadcast out of Martha's Vineyard, featured George Harrison's 33 & 1/3 as its album of the week this week, and I enjoyed the tracks so much I decided to pull the disc from my collection and throw it onto my iPhone to see how it sounded with the MA750i's. My rips into Apple Lossless were from the 2004 remaster. I absolutely love the track "A Beautiful Girl" and was happy with the how this beautiful song sounded on the MA750i's. Both acoustic and electric guitars sounded clean and balanced. Again, vocals were terrific. I'll note that the MA750i's were easily driven – I had no issues moving between my Oppo BDP-105 and my iPhone for listening.
In use with my iPad, catching up on episodes of this seasons excellent Boardwalk Empire, the MA750i's also performed well. Dialog was clear and easy to discern, and there was enough bass extension to convey effects when necessary.
My experience with the inline mic and controls was fine. The controls worked as advertised with my iPhone; the mic worked well during calls.
The $100-150 ear bud space is certainly crowded, but I feel that the RHA MA750i's are an adequate contender. Attention to details and build quality are both impressive. If you are one that tends to go through headphones like I do, this unit should almost certainly be on your short-list. On top of that, the units sound quite good and is competitive with any of its piers in this price tier. I had a few qualms – probably the most prominent of which was the length of the cord – but otherwise, I found little not to like about the MA750i's. I have no issues whatsoever recommending them to anyone in the market for a new unit this holiday season.