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RHA S500 headphone review: Polished sound on a budget

One of the latest products from Britain-based RHA is the S500, a pair of lightweight aluminium alloy in-ear monitors aimed at the entry level segment of the market.

tech Updated: May 18, 2016 12:41 IST
Rezaul H Laskar
Rezaul H Laskar
Hindustan Times
Reid Heath Acoustics,S500 in-ear headphones,micro-dynamic drivers
RHA’s S500i in-ear headphones have very small ear pieces thanks to their micro-dynamic drivers.(HT Photo)

Britain-based Reid Heath Acoustics is the company behind the excellent T20 in-ear headphones, one of the finest IEMs I’ve ever heard. One of its latest products is the S500, a pair of lightweight aluminium alloy in-ear monitors that is aimed at the entry level segment of the market.

The S500, like most of RHA’s products, comes in two variants –one meant for use with Apple products (called the S500i) and another for use with Android phones and digital audio players.

Straight up, this is one of the smallest pair of IEMs I’ve ever seen – the beautifully crafted aluminium ear pieces measure less than 2 cm and the S500 weighs just 14 gm.

A little bit of care is required in choosing the right ear tips for these headphones. Select a pair that’s too big and the sound will get all boomy, and if the tips are too small, all you’ll hear is a tinny sound. The S500, provided for this review by Headphone Zone, ships with six pairs of dual density ear tips and a pair of double flange ear tips, so you should have no problem getting the right size for your ears.

Other accessories with the S500 are a soft carry pouch and a shirt clip. The S500i version, which is the one we got for the review, includes a three-button in-line remote and microphone that works with Apple devices and can be used to control volume and playback and make calls.

A close look at the RHA S500i’s small aluminium alloy ear pieces. (HT Photo)

The 1.35-metre cable has a two-part design, with the upper half using a thermoplastic rubber finish and the lower half coated with a tangle-resistant fabric braiding. The cable terminates in a baby version of the solid plug used in the T20.

The small size of the S500 is thanks to the micro-dynamic drivers developed by RHA. Despite the small size, the frequency range is an impressive 16-22,000 Hz.

Isolation is not one of the greatest strengths of these headphones – it was difficult to shut out outside sounds in very noisy environments. But the sound came through loud and clear in a normal or slightly noisy environment. The S500 is also easily driven and should work fine with most smartphones.

The S500 has a polished and refined sound – these headphones aren’t for those who want a huge bass bump. For them, the bass may sound a little too laid back but for others it should be just fine. The soundstage isn’t as wide as the T20 but then those headphones retail for almost four times the cost of the S500.

Using the S500 for extended listening sessions was a pleasure, thanks to its non-fatiguing sound and the small size of the ear pieces. The S500 paired with the FiiO X7 digital audio player was a magical combination and I sat and listened to the whole of Santana’s new album “Santana IV”. This is a very nicely recorded old school album and the S500 brought out all the details in the guitar solos, thundering percussion and Benny Rietveld’s bass work.

If you’re looking for a pair of headphones to replace the set that came with your smartphone and want good sound without burning a hole in your pocket, the S500 could be just what the doctor ordered. The non-Apple version sells for Rs 2,999 while the S500i goes for Rs 3,999.


Driver: Micro-dynamic (140.1)

Frequency range: 16-22,000 Hz

Impedance: 16 ohms

Sensitivity: 100 dB

Max power: 5 mw

First Published: May 18, 2016 12:38 IST