This article was written by Manish Sain and first appeared in India Today here.
It takes ambitions and a great deal of guts to enter a market which is already dominated by veterans like Sony, Bose, and JBL. RHA, a British company and a not-so-famous-name in the Indian market, recently launched two earphones - S500 and S500i. These are premium earphones, at least for a country like India where most people never step up from the bundled earphones they get with their phones. At least price-wise, it is.
Of the two, the RHA S500i is the pricier one at Rs 3,999. Now this won't be an earphone an average user would consider but there are some who do care a lot about the sound quality and are willing to pay a bit of premium for that, that is until the premium is worth paying. So is it worth paying in the case of RHA S500i? We find out.
The S500i looks like a work of fine craftsmanship at first appearance. And the feeling remains as you use it. The earphone sports a threaded cable of 1.35 meter length, but that is not the high-point. The big deal with the S500i are the metallic earplugs and the metallic covering over the gold-plated audio jack that makes the earphones look premium and classy. After using it for a while you start to notice how small things have made huge difference to the earphone's design.
It is something more and class apart. If you go by the design, the S500i is simple and classy. The subtle metal texture reflects refined taste, if you are into that kind of a thing
The metal is not just for show, it also plays an important role. The audio jack is built in a way so the actual wire-jack connection is hidden behind the metal. The metal covering helps the earphones withstand continuous usage and sudden tugs every now and then.
The S500i comes with 3 pairs of silicon eartips, quite small from what I have used so far. But size here actually doesn't matter. There are three usual sizes, S, M, and L, of eartips that come with the S500i. And whatever size you go with, you'll find it to be extremely comfortable. The eartips don't get sweaty, don't feel itchy after a while, and don't cause any kind of pain either. Even after using the earphone for about four to five hours, I did not find any issues with its fit.
The earphone carries a 3-button remote, which also works as a microphone. The remote module is long and slim, making it easier to get hold of. The buttons are soft to touch and responsive.
The RHA S500i is not colourful, flashy, or even trendy. But it is something more and class apart. If you go by the design, the S500i is simple and classy. The subtle metal texture reflects refined taste, if you are into that kind of a thing.
The S500i is everything an earphone needs to be. It is beautiful, it is strong, and it is comfortable to wear.
The design and build quality is all well and good, but the most important factor and, of course, the reason for which one buys an earphone is its performance.
The RHA S500i is a mix bag of goodies when it comes to audio quality, although you don't always get what you want. Let's start with what's not right with the S500i and then we'll talk where it will give you all the good vibes.
Listening to old Hindi songs on the S500i is boring. The earphone just kills the whole feel and vibe. The vocals sound shrill that may not appeal to those who only listen to old Rafi and Mukesh songs.
You are also in for a treat if your playlist has mostly latest Bollywood songs, which too require tight bass. This kind of music sounds extremely appealing on the S500i
But this is one blip on an otherwise good performance offered by the S500i. The earphones, in particular, offer a lot of bass, which helps a lot with music that have more modern beats. Listening to Hip-Hop and EDM is a delightful experience on the S500i. Even at higher volume, the earphone is capable of generating good bass, crisp tunes and clear voice.
You are also in for a treat if your playlist has mostly latest Bollywood songs, which too require tight bass. This kind of music sounds extremely appealing on the S500i.
The S500i also does a good job with progressive rock and metal. But don't go too metal on these earphones. This means I won't try grunge, death, or black metal with the S500i. However, if you keep the volumes somewhere in the middle, you'll get a decent enough experience. Although, the charm of the Metal is at higher volumes, if you can call that charm.
To sum it up, these are the earphones that are great at handling music with modern tunes and instruments. If you are more into jazz or classic you won't find the S500i well suited to your taste.
The RHA S500i sports a price tag of Rs 3,999. Considering the price and the mixed experience the earphone offers, there is a lot to weigh in before buying the RHA S500i. It has a nice, suave design. It offers decent to great audio quality. But then so do many others in the market.
If you like to wear your style on your sleeves, in this case, your ears, the RHA S500i is something you will like. You will also like it if you mostly listen to what is latest and hip in the market. But don't buy these if you are into old Hindi songs.
Here is the much awaited review of the HiFiMAN HE400s.