Like a good Speyside malt or a fine haggis, the new RHA MA650i Lightning earphone offers a degree of complexity. But that won’t stop MajorHiFi from putting this earphone through the paces. Priced at a fair $59.95, this earphone features a lightning connection for easy use with iOS devices. But how does the sound compare to other RHA earphones? And does that sound justify the price?
RHA MA650i Lightning Review
The MA650i Lightning comes with a few accessories: a mesh carrying pouch, a cable clip, and eight pairs of eartips. It arrives in a small box that bears the iconic RHA branding/look.
Holding this earphone in my hands, it feels solid, with a little weight to its aluminum build. A nylon cable measuring 54 in (or about 1.4 m) features a built-in mic and three-button remote for controlling playback and volume.
These earphones are also Siri-compatible, so if you want to ask your phone questions, you can do just that with the RHA MA650i Lightning.
Fit remains comfortable and light, and once I’ve got these earphones wedged inside my Grand Canyon Ears they feel just fine, with a decent seal to boot. They’re so good, I don’t even hear my coworkers groan as I sing along, flatly, to my listening tracks.
In terms of drivers, this new iteration of the MA650i uses a single dynamic driver – nothing crazy, but a tried-and-true design that’s been around forever.
Frequency Response: 16-20,000 Hz
Nominal Impedance: 16 ohms
Sensitivity: 100 dB
As we can see from these specifications, the MA650i Lightning delivers a fairly standard frequency response with a little extra extension in the lows. A low nominal impedance of 16 ohms will work just fine with iOS devices, and should still get louder than other earphones at the same price. Jiving with this, 100 dB isn’t crazy-sensitive, but enough to deliver adequate volume under most circumstances.
In the lows, the RHA MA650i Lightning offers a decent amount of detail. Lyrics on tracks like Ice Cube’s King of the Hill feel crisp and concise, but the sound lacks real punch. Beats drop half-heartedly, feeling shallow. While somewhat permissible for rock and pop, the low end falters on hip-hop and electronica tracks where a little extra “oomph” isn’t so much a preference as it is a requirement.
Here the earphone really shines, delivering solid mid-range detail. The sound remains distinct and precise when playing Jolene by Cake, or Starlight by Muse. Vocals and instrumentation benefit equally here, and the midrange goes a long way in compensating for the lackluster lows – especially for pop and electronic tracks.
Slightly sibilant, the high end isn’t so much unlistenable as it is a gnawing, biting thorn in the ear. Instrumentation sounds okay if a little tinny, but the sharp hiss on vocals leaves me shirking hip hop and rock tracks with lots of emphasis on the highs. My pop tracks – like Kylie Minogue’s New York and Fancy by Korean cuties TWICE – don’t suffer as much, and on the latter, this earphone sounds nearly perfect.
There’s decent depth here, but not much space, and the sibilant high end doesn’t help matters much. Things seem spaced out in general, but as I try to pinpoint individual instruments, I find them overlapping more often then not. This convoluted sound is less a failing of the MA650i Lightning than it is a common fault with in-ear headphones, but you should still be aware of it.
Personally, I love the RHA MA650i for some pop music – especially K-Pop. But for R&B, Hip-Hop, Rock, and Electronica, the lacking bass and sibilant highs prevent me from truly enjoying its sound.
For folks who want a bit more punch in the bass and a smoother high end, I would recommend the Strauss and Wagner SI201 (at $49).
But if you want an earphone with a strong emphasis on the mids and highs (and aren’t bothered by a slightly sibilant sound), the RHA MA650i Lightning offers a decent listening solution.
Overall, the RHA MA650i Lightning offers a fairly entertaining sound – for the right listening tastes. Pop fiends and folks who prefer a less bassy, more treble-licious sound will dig this lightning-connector earphone. However, for folks who want more bass and a smoother high end, other alternatives may prove more suited to a wider array of music genres.
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