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Review: RHA MA150 low cost, high quality earphones

I use my iPhone a lot to listen to music when I'm out and about. And I have a really great pair of earphones to use for this purpose. However, they are high-end in-ear monitors. And while they sound amazing, they are not always practical for day to day tasks like going for a run or shoving them in my back pocket when I arrive at my destination. They are expensive, and therefore require special attention.

So I've been in the market for a second pair of great sounding earphones that don't break the bank and can take the beating of daily life. And that's why I was excited about Apple's EarPod headphones. I thought they would be the answer to my easy listening requirements: A budget pair of earphones that are well designed and produce a great sound. However, we all know they turned out to be somewhat of a disappointment. And that's where RHA's MA150 noise-isolating earphones come in.

Released in January of this year, the MA150s can be bought for US$19.95. They are designed to be affordable, yet provide uncompromised sound and function.

Design

The MA150s look like a standard pair of earphones. They come with a 1.2 meter Y-shaped cable with a slider to stop tangles, a 45 degree angled, gold plated, 3.5mm connector and a high performance, 10mm Mylar driver in each earphone. The earphones come with 6 silicon ear tips; two each for small, medium and large sizes.

Impressively, it's clear a great deal of attention to detail has gone into these earphones, from manufacture to the simple-yet-tasteful eco friendly packaging.

The MA150s speakers utilize an aerophonic, trumpet bell inspired design for delivery of audio, the same used in its more expensive MA350 and MA450i variants:

Functionality

I was very impressed with the performance of the MA150s. After getting the right size ear tip on each earphone, the MA150s fit easily and snugly in my ears. Straight away I was impressed with how well the earphones stayed in my ears, even when running.

With regards to sound, the first thing I noticed was that the sound was very warm, with a strong, punchy bass presence, which I assume is aided by the snug fit of the earphones, resulting in good noise isolation. For budget earphones, this was not what I was expecting.

As far as I can describe (in my limited and humble experience), the mid range was energetic and the treble was clear. Basically, I was immediately pleased with the reproduction of sound.

For some comparison, I tried the MA350s ($39.95), and my in-ear monitors (around $200). The MA450s provided a clearer and more balanced and detailed sound, and as expected, my in-ear monitors even more so. But going back to the MA150s, I was still very satisfied with the sound, surprisingly so -- especially at the price point.

Conclusion

According to their website, in designing the MA150s, RHA set out to combine "outstanding audio, minimalist design and affordability... at an entry level price to offer a new market of listeners exceptional audio quality." And I have to absolutely agree, that is what they have done.

In comparison to budget earphones like Apple's EarPods at $29.99 (and granted, they have a mic and remote built-in), the MA150s outperform EarPods in every way. Though they are budget earphones, no corners have been cut. These are minimalist earphones, but they don't feel cheap or tacky, just good value for money with fantastic sound quality.

If you're after an affordable, but solid pair of no friills earphones that don't compromise on sound quality, the MA150s are certainly worth jumping for. You'll be surprised at just how well they perform.

If you're after RHAs with built-in mic and remote check out the RHA MA450i

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