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Review: SA950i Headphones by RHA

RHA_SA950i

When RHA contacted me to see if I’d be interested in reviewing their SA950i headphones, I eagerly accepted since their MA450i earbuds (reviewed here) remain my favorite and default choice to use when I use earbuds.

Appearances

When the SA950i box arrived, I was excited. The classy packaging is loaded with information describing the features of the enclosed SA950i. Opening the front of the magnetized box cover reveals the prominent showcase of the headphones – and a desire to pull them out and try them out. Which I did immediately … and nearly forgot to take a picture!

The contrast between the glossy and matte black finishes with the chrome elements, particularly the chrome sliders, give these headphones a stylish appearance. They look as if they cost much more than the $60 retail price.

Specifications and Features

RHA states they are a “designed to meet the needs of music lovers who want the technical specifications of a professional headphone in a portable, light unit.” The headphones do state some powerful statistics in the affordable headphone category. Housed in the padded, glossy black ear cups, the speakers boast:

  • professional grade 40mm titanium-coated Mylar drivers
  • 16-22,000 Hz frequency
  • Impedance: 32 Ohms
  • Rated / max power: 30 / 100 mW
  • 113 dB Sensitivity

Designed for use with idevices, the SA950i also have an in-line remote – for volume and track control – with microphone for phone calls. My experience with the remote were good: an improvement over their MA450i earbuds whose controls intermittently don’t work. The microphone also performed as well as other in-line mics making an hour-long conference call private and bearable for all of us.

SA950i_remote-mic-black_1

The included 1.5 m fabric braided cord reduces tangling and has gold-plated connections at both ends. Both ends? Yes, the cord is detachable from the left ear cup, and hence replaceable. This is primarily a positive feature in that any sudden pull of the cord will simply unplug from the headphones instead of causing permanent damage – something I have done to past sets of earphones.

Also worth mentioning is that these headphones are light. Weighing in at only 105 grams (3.7 ounces), carrying these headphones in your bag or around your neck won’t be burdensome. Their weight, however, is both a blessing and a curse. More on that later.

Sound

The beauty of headphones aren’t limited to appearance. If a pair looks great and sounds terrible then they are worthless. So how do RHA’s perform? Fortunately the SA950i sound as good as their fashionable appearance.

I can barely keep the volume on full without the sound deeply penetrating my skull. And what is best is that even on full blast they never distorted. The volume and bass caused the ear cup padding to be a necessity as they vibrated against my head. And it was good. Very good. Yet as a bass lover, I wanted just a touch more. Songs like Radioactive impressed.

The midrange and treble were sufficient though maybe inconsistent. For example, Change by Churchill seemed a bit out of balance, while Sufjan Stevens’s recorded version of Movement VI – Isorhythmic Night Dance With Interchanges sounded as if I were there in the recording studio. Podcasts, whose recording qualities vary, were handled as well as should be expected. Noise canceling / dampening – and the SA950i are not advertised as such – is limited to how well the earphones fit your ears and how high the volume can go: this means listening to Car Talk while mowing the lawn is better served with RHA’s noise-canceling MA450i earbuds.

SA950i cord on ear cup

Cons

So what are the drawbacks of the SA950i headphones? Truthfully there are only a few.

First while they are light weight, it can make them feel a little cheap, especially the glossy black ear cups. While I appreciate wanting to produce headphones that aren’t too heavy to wear for a long time, it’s tough to balance that with a overly light, brittle feeling earphones. I think RHA almost has the balance right, but on the too light weight side.

Speaking of glossy ear covers, I am wondering how the glossy finish will endure after years of use. Although my few weeks of use hasn’t scratched them, they may be susceptible to showing wear over time.

Lastly, those earphones may indeed get scratched because unlike many portable headphones, the SA950i does not collapse further and fold flat. So while they are advertised as compact, they don’t compact any more.

SA950i earphone

Should you get a pair?

The benefits far outweigh the limitations here, so I can definitely make a recommendation. RHA has produced a quality pair of headphones, with fairly good sound, for a very reasonable price. With the SA950i headphones you get what you’re promised – “to meet the needs of music lovers who want the technical specifications of a professional headphone in a portable, light unit” – and a bit more since RHA provides a 3 year warranty!

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RHA website

The SA950i headphones are available for $59.95 at Amazon.com

RHA supplied iSource with the SA950i headphones for review. See our About page for more details.

 

 

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  • For only $59 they look like a good deal. I could imagine my fingerprints all over the glossy ear cups, however!