I’m ashamed to say that I’m not really a fan of this style of over-the-ear outdoors headphone. In my opinion if you’re outside listening to music in all the noise and traffic why wouldn’t you isolate yourself from as much noise as possible with in-earphones? So with all that in mind, why am I reviewing these RHA SA950i headphones? Well to start with they look really good, and secondly because I was so impressed with the last earphones they sent me, how could I refuse these? Let’s see how they go.
Look and Feel
Well to start with, wow! The website says the SA950i weigh about 105 grams, but to be honest that doesn’t really do these justice. These headphones are so super-light I wasn’t sure they hadn’t just sent me an empty pair of ear-cups. The specs talk about rare-earth magnets with titanium-and-Mylar whatsits but the true is with these on you’ll forget that you’re wearing anything. The faux leather headband and chrome highlights look the business and the earpads with their very unobtrusive speaker leads down each side give it a bit of techno-flair. I’ve noticed that outsides of the shiny black ear cups do start to get scratched after a couple of weeks in and out of bags but it’s not that noticeable under the fingerprints.
The audio cord is detachable with male 3.5mm TRRS connections at each end. For me all headphones should have a detachable cord now, it’s so darn useful. For starters you can use it in the car in the stereo auxiliary input, complete with microphone for phone calls. Apart from that, the detachable cord means it’s so much simpler to untangle a wire if you can disconnect the end. Simple is good. The headphones also sat quite well around my neck and the braided cord was fairly tangle-resistant and any knots were very easy to remove.
The ergonomic in-line remote control is very, very good. It’s only designed for Apple gear but it’s the usual setup; volume up/down, play/pause with skip forward/back and hold it to wake up Siri. All the buttons excel in tactility with a good solid click. The play/pause button has a depression on top that makes it easy to find even with gloves on, and the controls hang so that volume up is at the top. Simple, well designed and you don’t have to think to use it. Best of all the microphone is on the back of the of the buttons and not stuck in the earpads, so you don’t have to shout when you’re using it as a headset. People I rang had no troubles hearing and understanding and a couple even commented on the clarity. If you’re not planning on using it with anything Apple then the SA950i reverts to being just a pair of headphones.
Putting them on the most comfortable way meant the left/right markings were the wrong way around. Putting them on the “wrong” way made it more comfortable but to be sure I passed them around and everyone who tried them agreed that they seemed to be the wrong way around. Not sure what’s going on there.
The headband was unobtrusive and the earpads have about 5cm of travel on both sides so everything stays nice and snug on your head. The pressure on your ears is firm which promotes a good seal and ordinarily I’m pretty picky about squashed ears and these were no problem at all. Just be warned, the ear pads are a bit smaller than they look, they may not cover your whole ear. The firmness and the quality of the seal convinced me that this style of headphone can work. It doesn’t keep out as much of the ambient noise as in-earphones but it’s still very usable. Only a couple of times in two weeks of testing did I need to bump up my volume to near max to hear it over the trucks or cars.
Sound-wise I found the sound of the SA950i a little less exciting than the MA350s I reviewed previously. The sound was still very good with a warm bass but there wasn’t the nice clear-sounding space up towards the treble. Don’t misunderstand me, these headphones make a great sound and everything is clear and right where you left it. I’m no audiophile but I’m pretty sure you won’t be disappointed with the sounds out of these things.
I’m happy to say I went in as a doubter and came out a believer. I can’t really can’t fault these headphones for anything. They feel solid, they’re comfortable and are extremely light, and the remote is a joy to use. A serious amount of good design and thinking has gone into making them. To top it all off I think they’re pretty darn stylish in a discreet kind of way and I found them comfortable for hours of listening. The best bit is RHA have built a great looking set of headphones, that can be used seamlessly as a headset, or as a pair of good headphones and there doesn’t seem to be any compromise with them, even the price is fantastic, £49.95 or US$59.95 and they’re guaranteed for 3 years! If in-earphones aren’t your thing you should seriously consider looking at these, I haven’t used any other headphone for weeks. Highly recommended!