Having just flown the MajorHiFi company jet to Berlin for IFA 2018, I’m currently up to my ears in new headphones. From the land of whisky and water monsters comes the much-anticipated RHA CL2. This planar-magnetic, closed-back Bluetooth-ready in-ear headphone retails for a solid $899 and sounds fantastic. But is there any reason not to buy this intoxicating little beast?
RHA CL2 Review
Packaged in a stately box, the CL2 comes with a wealth of accessories. With ten pairs of eartips, a hard folding case and a soft carrying pouch, as well as a USB-C charging cable and a flight adapter, this earphone comes with plenty of accoutrements.
The biggest draw of the included accessories, though, will be the Bluetooth cable. Inspired by the same wireless neckband found on the RHA 650 earphone, this iteration remains surprisingly flexible. The soft rubberized build is IPX4-rated, making it sweat and water resistant, as well as being dust-proof. A 12-hour battery life also nudges this Bluetooth cable ahead of any competitor on the market right now.
In addition to a Bluetooth cable, the box also holds a copper cable terminating in a single ended 3.5 mm plug and a silver cable with a 2.5 mm balanced connection. Both analog cables measure a liberal 54 inches (1.35 m).
All included cables utilize an MMCX connection, allowing users to pursue a cornucopia of extra cabling options.
The earpieces themselves seem incredibly small and lightweight, and it’s hard to believe that RHA has managed to cram a planar magnetic driver inside. The housing features a Zirconium Dioxide build made via injection-molding techniques, leading to an impression of strength and resilience. Once situated in the ear, though, the form seems to simply melt away, leaving you alone with the music.
Frequency Range: 16-45,000 Hz
Nominal Impedance: 16 ohms
Sound Pressure Level (SPL): 89 dB
As we can see from these specs, the CL2 packs some extra emphasis in the lows and highs. Impedance remains low, as is to be expected with any earphone utilizing Bluetooth technology. Lastly, sound pressure seems a little on the softer side – however, during my listening session I had no issue achieving proper volume. Indeed, the power of that driver paired with the low impedance can make for a fairly loud listening experience, if you’re into that sort of thing.
In the low end, the CL2 exhibits a natural and lifelike sound. Not overemphasized, but clean and articulate if slightly reserved. As one listens, the low end seems to immediately open up, revealing the kind of deep, emotive lows characteristic of a planar-magnetic driver. The bass, while powerful, never devolves into a sloppy mess, maintaining a luscious, well-controlled impact with any source.
A strong sense of fidelity marks the mids. Every tone appears accurate, with plenty of contrast for a truly articulate sound. Using the supplied Bluetooth cable, there is a slight hint of compression in the upper mids, but using the 3.5mm or 2.5 mm cable reveals this hiccup to be a minor fault of the Bluetooth technology.
Sparkling detail accents the CL2’s high end. This, paired with the heady and intoxicating low end, leads to a mesmerizing, emotive sound. Slightly bright, this part of the frequency range remains well-tempered, and never becomes too harsh or uncomfortable.
Rich and airy, the sense of soundstage benefits from fantastic depth and a good sense of placement. The listening experience may seem a bit more “closed in” than an open-back earphone like the Audeze iSine 10 or iSine 20, but the added isolation from the RHA design is a godsend. All in all, the soundstage remains rich and immersive, and does ample justice to any track I throw at it.
Despite the inclusion of a Bluetooth cable, the RHA CL2 remains an audiophile’s earphone. While it does perform slightly better in the mids with a cabled connection, the inclusion of the Bluetooth neckband constitutes a thoughtful perk. Considering too that RHA’s cable offers better build quality and a 50% increase in battery life over any competing cable, it’s plain to see there really is no better alternative out there.
The CL2 also offers an incredibly comfortable listening experience, and I cannot stress this point enough. With its ergonomic but slight design and feather-light feel, this is a perfect example of an earphone that sits in your ear and gets out of the way – no falling out, no need for constant micro-adjustments. Just you and the music. This is the audiophile dream, folks.
Burn-in is also worth mentioning. Some headphones appear to improve a little with regular use, while others improve a lot. The RHA CL2 definitely belongs in the latter category, but the effects of burn-in appear almost immediately. For my review, I was handed a fresh unit with no prior playtime whatsoever. But as I listened, the low end immediately began to swell with that planar sound. The mids, too, seemed to mature WITHIN MINUTES of playing my test tracks.
If you’ve been on the fence about the CL2, for the love of God, check it out: RHA has knocked the ball out of the park with their planar magnetic design. And if you weren’t on the fence? This earphone still goes toe to toe with any other model at this price point. Shure SE 846? Check. AKG N5005? Check. Sennheiser IE800S? You better believe that’s a check.
Really, the only reason not to buy this fantastic earphone would be if you want a flat sound or more emphasis on the mids and highs. If flat is your objective, I would recommend the N5005, though this one might be almost too clinical. For mid-high focus, the Westone W60 comes to mind almost immediately.
The hype train is off the tracks with the RHA CL2, but with just cause. At $899, this closed-back planar-magnetic earphone packs a staggering wallop with little to improve upon and even less to complain about. If you’re in need of a new earphone for pure, unadulterated sonic bliss, this should be your first and last choice.
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