The folks at British audio company RHA sent us a pair of headphones. They started selling the SA950i model in Apple stores and on Amazon on October 30. Should you pick up a pair along with your skinnier iPhone or smaller iPad? Here’s the lowdown.
Brand: RHA makes headphones that are “designed and engineered” in the U.K. They offer a “no quibbles 3-year parts and labour warrantee” on their products, which is awesome and also very quaint and British of them. There’s a small silver RHA plate on both ear adjustments but that’s as far as the branding goes. On a scale of zero to Beats by Dre, the SA950i model is very subtle.
Appearance: This is a pretty pair of headphones. Black leathery headband, black leathery ear cushions, silver ear adjustments. The outer part of the ear cushions are made of smooth black plastic that tends to look a little fingerprint-y once you get your hands on them, but if you’re really concerned about the sheen of your headphones, just breathe on them and rub them with your sleeve, like an apple. Basically, these headphones look like a black Mitsubishi Outlander. I almost expected a “heated seats” switch.
Feeling: Cushioned as fuck. I love on-ear headphones—earbuds, even those newfangled EarPods, tend to fall out for me—but my biggest gripe with on-ear and over-ear headphones is the headaches that sometimes occur with extended wear. No migraines here. Just a squishy and comfortable listening experience.
Specs: The headphones are 105g, meaning they weigh a little less than a quarter-pound. (American branding idea: “the Quarter-Pounder of headphones”?) 3.5 mm gold-plated connections. The speakers have 40mm mylar drivers that are micro-coated in titanium to strike a balance between being sturdy and lightweight. Lots of fancy metals involved. The cable is braided (not rubber) and detachable to avoid snaggles. There’s also a remote and microphone on the cable meant specifically for iPod/iPhone/iPad, so you can pause, skip tracks, raise/lower volume and answer phone calls.
Complaints?: Very few. None, actually, except it was difficult for me to get used to the single cord attached to only the left ear. I’m accustomed to being yoked to my electronics. Neck felt naked at first. Also, non-Apple product fiends might feel left out by not being able to use the remote.
Lets test out some music on these puppies:
Guilty pleasure song: Adele, “One And Only.” A cheesy, emotional song is useless without at least decent sound quality. It’s a lot harder to feel deep and sentimental feelings when the deep and sentimental song sounds tinny and cheap. Adele’s slightly overblown masterpiece from 21 sounded delicious, and I got a little sniffly before the gospel choir part even began, which is the sign of superior sound quality.
Bass-heavy song: Dead Prez, “Hip-Hop.” What better song to prove the bass power of the SA950i model than Dead Prez’s 2000 hit? This track contains at least dozens of earthworms of booming bass tunneling through the moist soil of your mind. And it sounded pretty incredible through these headphones: powerful and hypnotic. The kind of sound quality that would send me into a bass-filled universe and cut off my peripheral vision. Conclusion: I should be careful crossing streets when listening to music with these.
Phone call: I was easily able to talk on my phone (or should I say, my iPhone) with the mic; phone rang, I answered, I complained about getting stuck on an F train for an hour, I hung up. All whilst wearing the headphones.
Acoustic song: “I’m In Love With a Girl,” Big Star. Crystal-clear and lovely. Felt like Alex Chilton was gently strumming a guitar right right in my ear.
Complex indie rock song: Grizzy Bear, “Yet Again.” Vocal harmonies come through sounding angelic, guitars be lush, percussion never gets too distorted, and the low end doesn’t get lost in the shuffle. Good stuff.
In a nutshell: the RHA SA950i headphones offer quite a multisensory experience for something that is theoretically dedicated to the ears alone. They’re comfortable, they’ve got a convenient microphone, and most importantly, they make good music sound great.