With the s500 universal earphones, RHA proved that there are times when low tech is exactly what we need.
Have you ever wanted to listen to an audio book, to a song or a movie, only to discover that you forgot to charge the battery to your earphones/headphones? When I mow the yard, when my family takes road trips, and I am resting as the passenger or sometimes if I go for a run, I want low tech and reliable over bells and whistles. The RHA S500 Universal wired headphones arrived in a 4 1/16 inches square by 1 9/16 inches retail box. The cover vividly displayed the white/silver ear pieces upon a clean white background. The top and bottom of the box were accented with an attractive slate blue coloration. This same color added some much-needed color to the cover. The S500 Universal title, in white font, beautifully contrasted the asymmetrical trapezoidal slate blue cover accent. Just below this, RHA provided icons detailing voice control, three-year warranty and a British Flag. Rotating the packaging ninety degrees clockwise, I found a list of RHA tip accessories and a black mesh drawstring bag. The opposite side panel was relatively plain but did provide another pictorial view of the ear tips. The reverse face was my favorite part of the packaging. Towards your left, RHA included a 1 3/16 inches wide by 2 15/16 inches tall translucent window. I loved the ability to directly visualize the earphones, as a picture do not provide justice to the product. The silver ear pieces combined with the white silicone tips and the black cable to make an attractive pair of earphones. To the side of the window, you can find three paragraphs detailing the earphones: “For Every Track, For Every Ear, For Every Device.” You can “experience immersive, full-range sound from every track with the RHA model 140.1 driver,” the “lightweight and compact aluminum housings provide a noise isolating, comfortable fit for any ear,” and “universal remote and microphone allows full music, call and voice control for phones and tablets.” The bottom panel provided the UPC and the typical product labeling/information.
Inside of the packaging the earphones were displayed upon a silver foam backing and the six pairs of earphone tips were displayed to the side of the earphones. Within the grey cardboard box, I found a 3 inches wide by 4 inches tall black drawstring bag and the multi-language instruction manual. The most useful feature of the manual was the diagram that detailed the remote control. The English was well worded and recommended against listening to loud music and to avoid use while operating machinery, driving a car or other locations where you may need to rely on your hearing. The instruction manual noted that the single button remote utilized the number of button clicks to complete the functions. A single click will play or pause a song and can also make a call. Double pressing the button will advance the track or hang up a call. Triple pressing the button will reverse the track, and when you hold the button, it will activate the voice assistant. There was no volume control, no power control and because the device was wired, there were no battery/time limits to the earphones. To control the volume, you will need to increase/decrease the sound from the smart device.
The lightweight, 0.42 ounce (11.91 grams), earphones provided a generous amount of cable. Starting at the 3.5mm jack, you will find 38 inches of cable between the tip of the jack and the 7/8 inches long by 1/4 inches wide splitter. There was a total of 16 1/8 inches of cable from the base of the ear tips to the splitter. RHA was etched into the splitter and inked white onto the back of each of the ear pieces. The inner face of each of the ear pieces conveniently displayed a white “L” and “R.” The 7/8 inches long by 1/4 inches wide single button remote was located five inches from the base of the right ear tip. To use the device with a modern iPhone 7/7plus/8/8plus/X, you will need to use a lightning to 3.5mm adaptor. I trialed the headphones with both an Apple version and an off-brand 3.5mm to Lightning adaptor from Verchy, which proved to be worse than terrible. Whenever I test a pair of headphones/earphones, I utilize the audio tests from audiocheck.net. When I used the Verchy adaptor, the left/right channels were reversed, and there was an annoying buzzing present during all tests/sounds/etc. With the adaptors thrown into the trash, I tested the earphones with my iPad Pro 10.5″ and iPhone X with Apple adaptor.
Utilizing the Low Frequency Response and Subwoofer Audio Test (10-200 Hz) from audiochek.net, I found the earphones generated a pleasant rumble at 20Hz. Listening to Holly Cole “Train Song,” Cee Lo Green “Bright LIghts Bigger City,” Dark Knight Rises Joker Theme “Why So Serious” and sections of the Gladiator Soundtrack, I was pleased with the bass support. I watched movies on YouTube, Movies Anywhere and Amazon Prime Video and I felt that the lows were well balanced with the upper sounds. On a positive note, because the earphones were wired, there was no lag between the audio and video. The drivers within the earphones were not the most powerful that I have tested and I had to turn up the volume on the iPhone X to a few clicks above the half point. To test the upper range, I returned to audiocheck.net and used the High Frequency Response and Hearing Audio Test (22-8 kHz). I was able to hear sound at 16kHz, which was typical for my ability to hear. Since we lose our upper-frequency hearing first, most of us will be able to hear 12-14kHz by mid to late adulthood. I enjoyed the ability to hear the strings on the Far and Away soundtrack and the powerful emotions embedded in the Braveheart Soundtrack. I enjoyed the staging of Yosi Horikawa “Wandering” and then turned to comfort listening. I listened to a variety of songs from Credence Clearwater Revival, Beach Boys, Pentantonix, Lady Gaga, Anthem lights, Alabama, Johnny Cash and to numerous oldies. The sound overall was average for the price point and better than some of the cheaper Bluetooth earphones that I have tested. In this instance, the wired connection served as a benefit, rather than a negative.
Because these earphones rested in the ear canal, the fit of the ear tip was very important. RHA provided seven sets of ear tips from small to large and a single pair of dual-flange tips. I tested out the smallest tips and found that they were comfortable, but the dual flange tips were the most comfortable and the most secure. I was able to jog, I was able to jump, I was able to turn my head side to side, and with the dual flange tips, I was able to enjoy the sound and some minor passive noise cancellation. I do not know how water resistant these earphones will be, but they did survive the last two weeks of my testing. Similar to other wired earphones, this set suffered from microphonic sounds. As you move, the cable will rub against your chest, your side or your arm, and the mechanical sound will transmit a weird electronic like sound to your ear. With music playing, I did not notice much interference with typical background noise. If there was a lot of sound, the passive noise cancellation was less effective. WIth my iPhone X at 8-9 ticks of volume, I was able to hear fingers snap within a foot of my head but I was not able to hear the TV across the room. For a $40 pair of headphones, I was on the fence about the quality of the earphones. I wanted more from them, and at the same time, I felt that the price was a little high for the offered features. Personally, if these were about $10 cheaper for a pair of wired earphones, my rating would have been even higher. The sound was average and better than many $20-30 earphones but not as good as some of the $50-60 dollar earphones. The single button remote worked but oddly did not have volume control. Voice control worked well and was a welcomed feature of this pair of earphones.