The RHA MA-450i, like just about every sub-£50 set of earphones, use dynamic drivers, which at 10mm are slightly larger than the 8mm or so norm. Spec-wise these earphones appear to be identical to the slightly cheaper MA-350 model, with 16ohm impedance and claimed 16-20,000Hz frequency response, but there do appear to have been some minor tweaks made to the tuning of these IEMs.
Listening to the MA-350, we noted a slight bass bias that's common with earphones at this level. And it's here too. While not strictly 100 per cent accurate, it makes the MA-450 a fun listen. And while there's a hint of bloating in tracks that have been mastered with a tad too much bass, the sound is no boomy mess. Presentation is forward, and matched with the keen low-end, it makes these earphones capable of delivering plenty of punchy thrills - more so than the rival Sennheiser CX 300.
The sound is not perfect, though. Soundstage is a little narrower than the best at the price, and while RHA seems to have reined-in the treble since the MA-350 earphones hit the shelves last year, it still has a tendency to sound a little harsh and brittle. Hi-hats crash a little uncomfortably at times, and there's a bit too much "ess" in "S" sounds during spoken recordings. There's plenty of treble presence - which we can't say about every set at the price, but the top-end control isn't quite there, leading to a slightly fatiguing signature.
At just £10 more than the RHA MA-350, it doesn't seem as though we're being asked to pay too much for the MA-450i's remote control, and the extra rubber ear tips. However, we can't ignore that there are better-sounding earphones at the same price. If you care about sound quality more than anything else, the SoundMagic E30 are a better buy.
Yes, they look a bit worse and use plastic bodies rather than tasty machined aluminium, but treble offers much greater finesse and while there's less bass volume, it's more expertly handled. In similar fashion, while the Sennheiser CX 400 sound less dynamic, they're a good deal smoother, with none of the harshness of the RHA pair. For short listening sessions, the RHA MA-450i are great fun, but for an everyday workhorse pair, there are better sets out there.
The RHA MA-450i offer snazzy aluminium bodies, a neat remote control for iPhones and iPods and the small thrill at having bought British. They offer exciting sound too, with punchy bass and exuberant treble supplying more dynamism than most. However, we have a few quality concerns about the braided cable and rivals offer more refined, less tiring treble.