Headphone enthusiasts will always encourage you to dump bundled earphones as soon as possible. We tend to agree, but it’s as much as social issue as a sound quality one. Naff little earbuds tend to leak sound like water pouring through a sieve, sure to royally irritate anyone nearby. Not so with noise isolating buds like the RHA MA-350.
Not only do the MA-350 earphones block your ear canals off from unwanted noise with rubber tips, their bodies are completely enclosed too. Made of machined aluminium, the only outlet for sound is the driver grille, which is also made of metal. This kind of build quality is unheard of at this price point. For £30, we expect our earphones to be made of plastic, not metal.
Having more than once accidentally trodden on a pair of earphones, and heard that awful little crunch as they collapse underfoot, we can vouch there’s more to be gained from metal bods than just a high-end feel. And yes, we tried treading on the MA-350 - they survived.
A metal body is a rather brash and bold feature to offer at this entry-level price point, but their design is pleasantly subdued. The bud blooms outward like a trumpet with a mute in its “mouth”, the back is smoothly curved and the two-tone black and silver look supplies a very definite sensibility of having been designed with aesthetics in mind. Even the logo is fairly stylish, a rarity for small audio companies. Take a look at the logo that afflicts the Meelectronics HT-21 to see what we mean.
Without plugging them into our ears and having a listen, we wouldn’t have batted an eyelid if told that these earphones cost £100. For that RHA deserves at least some polite applause.
The RHA MA-350 earphones use a fabric-covered cable. This is an attempt to reduce tangling, but in our experience fabric cables tend to tangle nearly as much as their plastic/rubber counterparts. Leave them knocking about in a pocket for a couple of days and they will almost undoubtedly emerge a knotted mess. Next to a low-quality plasticy cable, or an all-too rubbery one, though, it does come up trumps.
Like Apple’s earphones, the jack housing is very small to keep the look clean. The lack of shielding means it’s less rugged than some, but also gives less bulk to snag against. This jack housing is made of rubber, which feels hardy enough. The cable is non-removable, but £30 headphones with this feature are extremely rare.
Where the cable separates into the two earbud cables, there’s a little plastic tie that you can move up the wire, to eliminate any slack. The two cables are the same length, but there’s enough of it to make wearing the cable behind your head possible.
Unless you hate fabric braided cables with a passion, consider the RHA MA-350 an unadulterated design success. Let’s see if they can pull the same trick on sound quality.