At £30, the RHA MA-350 aren’t expensive, but they do have some serious rivals. The Sennheiser CX 300, Jays a-JAYS Two and Ultimate Ears 200 are all available for around the same price. These buds can claim to beat all three on the quality of materials used, but it’s sound that matters most.
Conscious of these rivals, they seem to aim to provide both more bass power and more treble presence than most alternatives. The low-end is insistent, lending electronic and rock music plenty of impact. Technically, the bass is overblown but it doesn't overly muddy the sound as we've heard in other budget earphones that try to pack a voluminous booty.
They are a little less successful up in the higher end of the frequency range. The MA-350 have plenty of treble presence, but it's a little too sharp, resulting in harsh-sounding cymbals and sibilant vocals. This effect is particularly noticeable at high volume - it doesn't affect the sound so much when the drivers aren't pushed as hard. This is a concern if you want to use these earphones in noisy environments, as while noise isolation is comparable with its IEM rivals, it is - as ever - not perfect so a journey on the tube may instigate upping the volume a notch or two.
The sound signature doesn't help on this front either. There's plenty of slamming impact thanks to the power given to the two extremes of the frequency range, but there's not a great deal of mid-range bulk to bridge the two. Compared with the Sennheiser CX 300, the dominant budget IEM pair, the RHA MA-350 offer a much more powerful bass response with improved extension. From a quick listen, they also offer sparkier treble. However, in longer listening tests we found their sound fatiguing.
The RHA MA-350 try a little too hard for their own good - with a few dB shaved off them using Fiio's new E6 heaphone amp they started behaving in a more polite manner.
As an all-day-long music partner, we'd still prefer to hang around with the Sennheiser CX 300 or Jays a-JAYS Three, which have a little less acidic zing at the top end, but we certainly can't argue with the metal-bodied construction here. If one too many pairs of earphones have bitten the dust at your hands, the RHA MA-350 offer strength plastic-bodied rivals simply can't compete with.
Made of metal and boasting a design more stylish than we normally expect from a small manufacturer making budget headphones, the RHA MA-350 offer cracking value for money if you've killed more earphones than you can count. They offer plenty off bass too, but are tripped-up in the sound department by a harsh treble that stops them from beating the best.