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.
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.