Reid and Heith Acoustics's CA-200 headphones are quite unlike many of the most popular sets of cans in some respects. They boast about their Britishness - being "Designed and Engineered" in Britain - while several big headphone names try to plaster famous US names - like Bieber, Gaga and Dr. Dre - over their cans, in a metaphorical sense at least. We appreciate this more laid-back approach. But do these £40 closed-back headphones make us want to ditch our Sennheiser and Sony staples?
First impressions aren't all that great. Decked-out in glossy black plastic and featuring all-too-large RHA logos on each side, they lack the low-key style we appreciated so much in RHA's MA-350 earphones. While by no means offensive to the eye, they do look a little cheap.
Unfortunately, this extends to the feel of these headphones too. There's plenty of jiggle room to the mechanism that attaches each ear cup to the headband - there in part to make them easy to fit on your head. But, in an all-plastic construction, this also robs them of solidity. Next to similarly-priced Sennheiser models like the PX100 and HD 218, they seem flimsy and insubstantial.
This sense doesn't vanish entirely once you pop them on your head either. The pads aren't hugely soft, and that flimsy feeling remains. However, the fairly free movement means the cups will find an easy fit on most heads almost instantly, and the pressure the headband exerts on your head is well-judged - enough to provide some noise isolation without trying to squeeze your cranium until your eyes pop out of their sockets.
From a fairly unimpressive start, we were surprised at how comfortable they started to feel, mostly because they are very light. While we found the synthetic ear pads do warm your ears up more than many pairs, they do try to "disappear" on your head. If you have large earlobes, though, the somewhat troublesome earpads are worth bearing in mind - the pads were large enough to enclose our whole ears, but they won't for everyone's. Slightly higher-grade pads would have helped here.
Part of RHA's strategy is to pack in features often associated with more expensive headphones. The CA-200 bring with them a fabric braided cable, which is removable. It attaches to both of the ear cups, using a standard mono 3.5mm jack at each side. Like the rest of the design, the cable doesn't feel hugely high-grade, but that it is removable is a minor plus. It would usually be a major plus, but as suitable cables (stereo audio that splits into mono) aren't as ten-a-penny as the more common stereo-to-stereo type, some of the benefit seeps away, especially when the headphones don't cost all that much to begin with.
The RHA CA-200 experience is an odd one. We got used to the awkward feel of the headphones, but we can't just forget that many of the big-name alternatives, most notably the similar Sennheiser HD 202, feel better-made. But how does the sound compare?