For years at trade shows, I have been passing the stand of an intriguingly subfusc British headphone company called RHA. I always note down the name, take its interesting, very black brochure and promise to get hold of one of its products – and then, well, I don’t get round to it.
RHA isn’t what you’d call pushy, which may sound nice, but its quietness works to the extent that nobody I know in techie circles has (until recently) a view of any kind on the brand. A search of its website doesn’t help a lot in establishing who it is or what it’s like, other than that it is obviously high-end. The website is remarkably spare on details about the company, its heritage, anything, and only a scan of the legal section shows its official name is Reid Heath. My own mini-investigation, however, reveals it to be a Glasgow company whose HQ is “in the shadow of the Finnieston Crane”.
This is odd because it sounds like the kind of background a company could make a great deal of. A few months ago, I finally made contact and asked for a sample of whatever it was currently most proud of. RHA complied quickly but, again, the beautifully packaged MA750i headphones it sent remained on my shelf unopened, as if the company’s shyness is shared by its products. They just weren’t shouty enough. Even the price (£90) wasn’t extravagant enough for me to want to tear them from their box and try them out.
Yet now I have finally got round to testing them, they are quite superb, especially – and this is an important point – when you’ve let them run in for a few hours, a common requirement with good headphones and loudspeakers.
The MA750i is an in-ear model, but one supported by a nicely springy ear loop, making the headphones ideal for the gym or running. The build quality is top rank: they are machined from stainless steel and have the best type of springy, durable cabling, with no concession at all to the middle-market price. Even the excellent carrying case and selection of alternative tips resonate quality. This product could easily sell for £150 or more – especially when you hear the rounded but still exciting sound. It has a design characteristic (who knew?) of RHA called “Aerophonic”, meaning it’s inspired by the airflow and the acoustic properties of a trumpet bell. I’m not sure if that would pass without comment from rival audio companies, but it worked for me.
The MA750i cans are also extremely comfortable and have a three-year guarantee (as if anyone will manage not to lose a pair of in-ear headphones within three years).
Oh, and on the shyness front, as I write this, by coincidence, a thick, tasteful invitation plops through my letterbox to the launch in Berlin of a new RHA product, promising to be a serious audio breakthrough of some kind. A quaint but effective marketing idea, using the post – and maybe a welcome end to RHA’s introverted phase.