Back in 2017, RHA released two new models of earphones, replacing the previous budget options. While one of them was an upgraded product to the immensely popular RHA MA350, the other one was the yesteryear favourite S500 but with an in-line microphone and universally compatible remote. But, what would suit me the best? A question that has been asked to us over a gazillion times: We take a look at how the humble RHA S500 Universal fares against the crowd favourite RHA MA390 Universal!
Too lazy to read? Just watch our quick comparison video where Raghav explains the key differences:
RHA has been known for some amazing build quality throughout the range and the same is true even for their most inexpensive products. The signature aerophonic design makes the earphones look like a horn tapering in towards your ear canal. The tapered housing also makes it pretty comfortable to wear for long hours and with the good fit, you also get some great isolation, further enhancing the listening experience. The build is super premium and almost unexpected at this price. You can also loop it from behind your ear, which further secures the fit and makes it sit stable even when partaking in vigorous activities.
The MA390U is the successor to the immensely popular MA350 and it retains most of the design elements with what RHA adheres to. The housing is considerably smaller in diameter and a tad bit deeper in terms of length. It thus further reduces any contact with the outer ear, making it feel pretty flush and comfortable.
The cable portions that are that above the Y-Split, the cable does not have a fabric coating whereas the other half does. Also the headphone jack is straight now as opposed to being right angled on the MA350.
Also included in the box are additional sets of tips for different sizes, a carry pouch and a shirt clip.
The S500 Universal sits just above the MA390 Universal in the RHA Lineup. The design is pretty much exactly the same as the previous models. The cylindrical housing made of machined aluminium is small enough to be light and comfortable, without being too small which would have made it feel intrusive. It has a snuggle fit when compared to the MA390 Universal. However, the cable is still fabric coated below the Y-Split, reducing the microphonics drastically, and the jack still has an aluminium housing.
Included in the box are, 7 pairs of tips(6 dual density, 1 double flanged), a tip holder and a carry pouch.
Stepping into 2020, we have over a 1000 reviews for MA390 Universal. The new drivers have a sensitivity of 89dB when compared to that of the S500 Universal which is at 100dB. This means that the MA390 Universal needs a good bit more power than the S500 Universal. Though most phones with a good headphone out will have no trouble powering these, some of the older Galaxy devices and a bunch of other old smartphones that really suffer with a poor headphone output section won’t be able to drive these well.
With that out of the way, let’s talk about how these actually sound. The bass, on the first listen sounded a little more deeper to the S500 Universal, but after listening to a couple tracks, A/B’ing both of them simultaneously, you can notice there is a touch better extension the 390U, with slightly better separation and energy. Though it does sacrifice the smoothness by the tiniest margin, it does so to be able to achieve a more enjoyable impact.
The mids are by and large, better than the S500 Universal, but instead of the upper mid elevation, it is evened out across the mid range. However, instead of taming the upper mids, they have elevated the mid range entirely, making it feel shouty on some tracks. This can still cause some fatigue, but for the most part it is still highly enjoyable.
The highs have the tiniest bit improvement in detail, leading to an improvement in the stage and imaging. They have managed to improve the detail reproduction without making it sibilant and that’s a quality generally found in more expensive sets of earphones.
This new iteration from RHA still retains the basic traits of RHA when it comes to design and sound, with some minor improvements. It is still a highly versatile set of earphones and still really enjoyable, while still causing some fatigue with mid heavy music.
The only difference between the S500U and the previous gen S500s is the addition of the universal microphone. That is it.
The sonic signature remains the same. The sound signature is still like a “tick mark” going from the left to right. By that I mean, it is a clear V-Shaped signature, but with extra emphasis on the treble and a clearly noticeable recession in the mids.
The bass is clear and extends well, with great energy, however it is less emphasised than the bass, with a sharp roll off towards the lower mids. This makes it less impactful. The mids are audible, but highly recessed and with no distinguishing qualities, while still maintaining clarity. Then there is a sharp incline towards the treble, which grabs all the attention.
Now what has to be said is that the treble is hyper detailed, with some great imaging and good staging. The clarity is excellent and it somehow manages to be sharp but without much sibilance. It is super clean and amazing for genres like Metal and Piano Heavy Classical music.
The bottom line being, that the RHA MA390 Universal is more suited for the average joe: The normal Indian consumer who prefers a little bass over and above anything else. RHA S500 Universal however emphasizes more on the treble and mids being a little rolled off. It is more suited for someone who's more inclined to having a lot more clarity and detailing in their music. All in all, irrespective of which one you pick, you get a flawlessly built in-ear with a great sound signature and a 3-year manufacturer warranty! What kind of music do you listen to? Let us know what you'd pick amongst these two in the comments below.