The RHA SA-850 are on-ear headphones that sit at the top of the British maker's range. They're affordable, though, selling for under £50. On-ear headphones provide larger drivers than the in-ear type, and avoid the often-silly look of great big over-ears headphones - that not many people can pull off convincingly.
Their design is similar to the RHA SA-500, another on-ear pair we reviewed last year. This more upmarket set appears to take a step up, with more silvery trim elements and a snazzier-looking cross-hatched pattern on the headband.
These parts of the RHA SA-850 are largely for show, though. The prongs that attach the earcups to the headband are metal, but the other silver parts are plastic. All the leather-look elements are fake, too, from the padding of the earpads to the headband outer and the material that surrounds the RHA logo on the sides. At this price, such construction compromises are to be expected, though, and the headband does feel commendably sturdy.
The RHA SA-850 do pack-in one point-winning hardware feature, though. They use a standard 3.5mm removable cable, which plugs into the bottom of the left earcup. This lets you easily replace it with another should you need a longer one, or if its straight 3.5mm jack plug bites the dust. The included cable is fabric-braided and roughly 1.2m long, making it just right for portable use though a too short for at home listening through a Hi-Fi setup.
Notions of thoughtful touches fade when you put the RHA SA-850 on, though. Like several on-ear headphones, they're not hugely comfortable. On paper, they should be, with a lightweight 104g frame and padding on both the headband and ear cups. But, like the SA-500 before them, the design is problematic.
The ear cups only swivel horizontally, making it a little difficult to get a comfortable fit. We also found that the ear padding wasn't quite soft enough to make them suitable for all-day listening. They don't "disappear" on your head as earphones this light ideally should do, with the pressure applied to your ears by the slightly-too-firm padding being uneven. If only RHA could dump these pads and replace them with the comfy leather padding of the plush but sadly sonically rubbish Beats by Dr. Dre Solo HD, we'd be much happier wearing them.
The RHA SA-850 closed on-ear design makes them ideal as travel headphones, but unlike some they don't fold up for portability. The metal adjustment prongs sit on a free slider, letting you make them slightly smaller, but not teeny. RHA doesn't include a carry case, or any accessories, but as an on-the-go headphone not aimed at frequent fliers, it's no great loss.