Breathtaking headphones from a great Glasgow startup

The RHA CL2 Planar headphones are the first upscale offering from the Scottish-based brand – and really deliver

RHA CL2 Planar, £800
RHA CL2 Planar, £800 | Image: Hugh Threlfall

The eight-year rise, in a ludicrously crowded market, of Glasgow’s RHA headphones startup has been something to behold. With excellent products that perform out of their class at between £20 and £150, the brand has seen sales rise 129 per cent over the past two years.

So I was excited to try its first seriously upscale model, the £800 CL2 Planar, then disappointed when I realised it combined the features I like least in headphones – wrap-around ear hooks, wires that need to be plugged into the ceramic earpieces, and a Bluetooth unit that enables the CL2s to go wireless by wrapping around the back of your neck. When I put the phones in my ears, they felt uncomfortable, so before I’d even started on the sound I wasn’t best disposed to them.

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However, within minutes, not only did the phones feel fine, but the sound, overly crisp at first hearing, grew on me and then totally won me over. The CL2 uses a new planar magnetic driver a huge centimetre in diameter, and the sound, in the short time it takes to get used to, is knockout. With good HD recordings and music either from a quality player or with the phone connected to the excellent iFi xDSD portable headphone amp I described in November, anything, but especially punchy rock tracks, are breathtaking – and I don’t use that word lightly as I hear a lot of great audio kit.

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