Matthew HughesFormer TNW Reporter
Matthew Hughes is a journalist from Liverpool, England. His interests include security, startups, food, and storytelling. Follow him on Twi Matthew Hughes is a journalist from Liverpool, England. His interests include security, startups, food, and storytelling. Follow him on Twitter.
Scottish audio manufacturer RHA today announced its latest headphones: the RHA MA390 Wireless.
These Bluetooth buds are the cheapest in RHA’s wireless lineup, retailing at £59.99 (€69.95, $69.95 in Europe and the US respectively), and are derived from the existing (and excellent) wired RHA MA390 headphones.
RHA seeded TNW with a pair last week, and we’re pretty impressed. The MA390 Wireless represent great value for money, with solid performance for the price point. Oh, and they look quite nice too.
The MA390 Wireless follows the same tried-and-tested design cues left by its pricier older sibling, the MA650 Wireless.
As a general rule, RHA doesn’t do flashy, and the MA390 is a testament to that basic design philosophy. It’s delightfully and stylishly understated.
The buds themselves have a somewhat austere aesthetic, and consist of a soft translucent tip that’s connected to a magnetic enclosure.
This is a pretty practical design consideration, as it allows you to attach both ends while not in use, making it less likely you’ll misplace your brand new headphones.
Connecting both left and right earphones is a long rubber neckband. This feels reassuringly sturdy, and (in my experience) can take a lot of punishment. It can easily be contorted and thrown into a bag.
The MA390 Wireless has the usual audio volume remote, which also houses its microphone, and along the neckband you’ll find two plastic-coated tubes. These contain the device’s battery, as well as its USB-C charging port.
As I mentioned in my review of the MA650 Wireless, it’s always a delight to see USB-C on headphones. Anecdotally, it seems as though the audio world is a MicroUSB holdout, while everyone else has largely moved on. RHA bucks that trend, however.
Having used the MA390 Wireless for over a week, I couldn’t help but come to the conclusion that RHA’s produced an excellent pair of gym-going headphones.
The buds are IPV4 certified, which essentially means that they’re “sweatproof,” and should be able to survive even the most intense of workout sessions.
In terms of battery, RHA reckons you can get eight hours of life out of a single charge. This felt about right, but I couldn’t help but feel this limited the practicality of the buds for me, especially as someone who frequently takes long-distance flights.
London to New York is about eight hours. That puts you right at the limit of the MA390’s endurance. London to San Francisco is about twelve hours, meaning that for four hours, you’ll be bored and twiddling your thumbs.
Alright, so enough about that. Let’s talk about audio performance.
As much as I enjoyed its predecessor, I know the MA390 Wireless targets the cheaper end of the audio market. It’s based on wired buds that presently retail on Amazon for under $30. So, my expectations were in check from the very beginning.
I wasn’t expecting anything earth-shattering, and indeed, the MA390 didn’t offer anything earth-shattering.
That’s not to say that they were bad, however. Quite the opposite. I found it offered perfectly acceptable sound quality, and faithfully reproduced of my favorite tunes.
Highs were sufficiently crisp. I was able to listen to Charly Bliss’s lead singer, Eva Hendricks, shriek during the more intense parts of their latest album, Guppy, without sounding strained. This was true even at high volumes, where most cheaper headphones fall down.
Bass response was similarly solid, as demonstrated with Watsky’s latest live album. It wasn’t as earthy and pronounced as I might have hoped, but it wasn’t bad either. As the decibels rose, it didn’t become distorted or woody.
The MA390 Wireless offers amazing value for the price point. Despite retailing for just $69.95, they offer really decent sound quality, and a design that’s conservative and understated, but still attractive.
RHA makes its newest offering even more compelling by including a three-year warranty, which is amazing for a relatively cheap piece of consumer audio tech.
I’d happily stump up my own cash for a pair, especially if I was looking for something to take to the gym.
But I’d also consider other options.
At the moment, I’m evaluating the recently-released Anker SoundCore Spirit X, which offers stiff competition to the MA390 Wireless.
It’s not as attractive as RHA’s offering, but its design feels more gym-appropriate, particularly if you’re doing circuits, as the buds clip over the ears. It also boasts IPV7 waterproofing, and a solid 12-hour battery.
You can grab the SoundCore Spirit X for under $40, which is a steal.
And if you can stretch a little bit further, I’d look at the MA650 Wireless, which I’m a huge fan of, and retails for under £90 ($100 in the US). Contrasting the two, I felt the bass was more pronounced with the pricier option, and you get a bit extra battery life too.
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