RHA MA750i: The best sub-£100 in-ear headphones
Up until around six months ago, my everyday headphones cost a tenner – that’s not because I’m tight, but rather because the £10 RHA MA150 were the finest budget headphones I’d ever heard. With a warm, cuddly sound that flattered every kind of music from hip hop to musique concrète, and a price that meant you didn’t need to fret about leaving them on the night bus, the MA150’s were an almost perfect package. You can imagine then, how distraught I was when I lost my pair and found out that they were – shock horror – discontinued. Then I came across the RHA MA750i, and I was tempted to spend more – a lot more.
RHA MA750i review: Features and design
The MA750i are several rungs up the ladder from my trusty old MA150 – and nine times the price – but by the standards of audiophile offerings with three-digit price tags, the £90 MA750i are still firmly in the “sensibly priced” camp. Compared to the plain, plasticky likes of the £249 Etymotic ER-4PT MicroPro, though, the MA750i feel like they should cost twice as much again. The earpieces are encased in solid, nicely moulded metal, and the build quality feels vastly more expensive than you’d expect for the money.
It’s the little details that really set the MA750i apart. A little metal spring prevents the cable from bending excessively where it meets with the 3.5mm jack, and the jack, in-line remote and cable joins are cast from classy, textured metal. For £90, you’re getting a very respectable-looking pair of headphones.
RHA are unusually generous with the accessories, too. You get a padded, zip-up case for storing the headphones on your travels, as well as a choice of eighteen ear-tips ranging from soft silicone buds in three sizes, two sizes of memory foam tips and another two choices of dual-flange silicone tip. A small spring clip stops the cable from swinging around and getting caught on clothing, but it’s not essential as the MA750i don’t suffer terribly from cable “microphony” – a trait that manifests itself as distracting thumping and rustling noises that are transmitted along the cable and through the earphones.
The “i” in the title denotes that the MA750i come with an in-line microphone and a remote control. This allows you to accept and decline calls, skip tracks, activate Siri and adjust the volume – if you have an iPhone, that is. Some functions may work on Android phones, but it’s entirely dependent on what’s in your pocket. The microphone quality is really very good, and the remote handy, but bear in mind that you can save yourself £10 by opting for the standard MA750.
RHA MA750i review: Sound quality
So, how do the MA750i sound? At first, I wasn’t too impressed – mainly because they were so finicky to fit correctly. The RHA’s have a pre-curved loop of cable that hooks over the ear, and it does take a little getting used to – especially if, like me, you have floppy hair that gets in the way.
The bigger problem, other than my needing a haircut, was that none of the supplied silicone tips provided a good seal – which is essential to stop in-ear ‘phones from sounding tinny and lightweight. The silicone tips were too loose, and the memory foam tips just didn’t agree with my ears, proving itchy and irritating. They might be fine for other people, as everyone’s ears are different, but my solution was to splash out on a pair of Comply memory foam tips. These are about £10 and are, in my opinion, well worth the extra outlay.
That done, the MA750i started to show what they’re capable of. It’s the bass that hits you first – it’s not as voluminous as that of the Sennheiser Momentum In-ear, but it goes seriously deep and there’s enough of it to underpin anything from the swell of orchestral works to the low-end pressure of the most brutal drum and bass tracks.
Thankfully, the MA750i’s bass response isn’t at the detriment of the rest of the frequency range. Voices come through crisp and clear, and the highs unearth enough presence and detail to sound good across a wide range of musical tastes, and without veering into the harshness that I’ve encountered with other in-ear headphones. Cue up a low-quality recording or MP3 and the MA750i aren’t as ruthlessly revealing as some – the solid, firm lower registers and slight warmth to the mid-range are pleasingly forgiving.
In fact, the only area where the MA750i lose ground to (much) pricier models is detail. Play a well-recorded classical piece, and whether it’s a large-scale orchestral work or a small choral group, there isn’t the sense of space that you get from the most expensive headphones. Instruments and voices are positioned accurately, all nicely separated and spread across a reasonably wide soundstage – and it sounds good tonally, too – but there’s little feeling of actually being there. The MA750i’s lack the airy, delicate sound that you get from the very best (and most expensive) headphones.
RHA MA750i review: Verdict
At this price, though, these kinds of complaints are mere nitpicking. After spending several months with the MA750i, I have nothing but praise for them.
It’s also well worth mentioning the three-year RHA warranty: I managed to rip off one of the headphones after getting it caught in a car door and RHA replaced it without quibbling – you can’t say fairer than that.
Pricier headphones may pip the MA750i in terms of detail and delicacy, and bass fiends may prefer the Sennheiser Momentum In-ear’s more forceful low-end, but if you’re after a balanced, weighty sound without spending a fortune, the MA750i are simply outstanding. Just try not to leave them on the night bus.
So you’ve got a new pair of headphones. Want to find the perfect smartphone to go with them? Click here to check out our list of the Best Smartphones of 2015