Rather like their build, the RHA CA-200 sound signature feels a little odd at first. The top end, while bright and fairly detailed, isn't entirely natural-sounding and balanced - although the odd aural effect of this is something your ears bed into fairly quickly. It sounds as though there's a spike somewhere towards the higher end of the frequency spectrum that's technically a bit of a faux pas, colouring the sound and making vocals sound rather odd. It makes Regina Spektor sound a bit like she's singing through a paper cone.
Given the slightly bright sound signature, though, that it largely manages to avoid sharpness and sibilance is impressive at £40. The bass performance is commendable too, this time without major caveats. It's smooth and congruous, fairly deep and doesn't boom out beyond its borders.
There's not a great deal going on in-between, however. The mid-range doesn't command much presence, leaving vocals without the texture and stature you'd get in a more mid-centric set. Sonic performance isn't bad, with the tasteful bass a significant win at this entry level over-ears point, but it's somewhat patchy and can't therefore beat the best rival on-ears and over-ears sets. And with a name as little-known as RHA, the CA-200 really need to.
It's a pity because the Reid and Heath Acoustics story is a pleasant and usual one - a small British company offering accessible, affordable products. We found the CA-200 much easier to live with than the previous SA-500, whose more rigid design made them much less comfortable to wear, but once again we can't give the RHA's latest our stamp of approval. If you find them on sale for significantly less than their asking price, perhaps £20 or £25, they represent a good buy. But the slightly flimsy feel, sonic issues and failure to significantly undercut some key rivals on price stop the CA-200 from being able to drag us away from the likes of the Sennheiser HD 202 and Audio-Technica ATH-T200.
Full size headphones for under £40? They sound attractive, but unfortunately British-based Reid and Heath Acoustics hasn't quite hit the jackpot with the CA-200. These headphones feel a little flimsy, and while the sound offers decent bass and detail, treble colouration and an unimpressive mid-range stop them from challenging the best from the big headphone names.