Headphone jacks are disappearing, and headphones themselves are all going Bluetooth. Right? Sort of, but that doesn't tell the whole story.
In 2016, Bluetooth headphone sales surpassed those of their wired counterparts for the first time, and are largely responsible for growing the headphone industry as a whole. And that industry is growing — dramatically. But one thing is certain: headphones — cheap, expensive, wired, wireless — are more important to people than ever. We think about them more, we spend more time researching the right ones to buy, and we're more invested in the experience, if not the sound itself, of listening to music on our phones.
This brings me to the RHA MA650 in-ear headphones, a set of wired earbuds that, in 2018, may not seem like a big deal, but to many Android users they should be. That's because, for $60, you get a great-sounding, beautifully-made set of earbuds with a three-button remote that works with most Android phones. That means play/pause and volume up/down should work, something that only iPhone users have been able to claim until now.
RHA MA650 headphones
Bottom line: Excellent build quality, superb sound, and plenty of customization options — plus a working three-button remote on Android phones — makes this an obvious choice for those who don't want to move to Bluetooth just yet.
- Clear, punchy mids and smooth highs
- Awesome build quality, at this price or any price
- Nine ear tip options in the box
- Three-button remote works on most Android phones
- Bass is a bit underpowered
- Not optimized for running or working out
RHA MA650 headphones What's good
The value proposition for a pair of headphones like these is simple: if you don't want to bother with charging a Bluetooth headset, or just don't want to sacrifice sound quality, and you're on an Android phone, the MA650s are a great choice.
At $60, they sound fantastic, and that's for good reason: RHA has a legacy of producing some of the best-sounding in-ear headphones in the business. While the Scottish company built its reputation in the audiophile space, they've been able to bring many of the same design concepts, and materials, down to a more affordable space.
The headphones are made almost entirely of aluminum, from enclosure to pipe, and feel far more premium than their price would suggest. The unboxing experience feels similarly extravagant, with three sets of ear tips in each size — small, medium, and large — consisting of silicone, double flange and, my favorite, Comply foam. The attention to detail is pretty astounding.
The sound is equally good for the price. The earbuds lack a huge driver for bass output, but what's there is tight and accurate. While the MA650s may not appeal to the heavy electronic music listener, I enjoyed Kendrick Lamar's beat-heavy hip-hop to SZA's groovy R&B and Arcade Fire's danceable alternative, and everything in between. It did take me a bit of experimentation to find the right fit for my ears, which is why RHA's generous assortment of tips is appreciated. (When in doubt, buy Comply tips for your earbuds — give them a little squeeze before inserting them in your ear and they expand to block out outside noise and deliver the best possible audio quality.)
Perhaps the best part of using these headphones with an Android phone like the Galaxy S9 or LG G7 is the fact that the three-button remote, which includes a centered play/pause button and volume up/down buttons at either side, is that it just works. Most headphones with remotes are optimized for the iPhone, which put the volume controls out of commission. A long-press of the MA650's play button also activates Google Assistant without issue. The microphone also sounds great for calls — a nice bonus.
I even tried using the headphones on devices without headphones jacks, like the Huawei P20 Pro and Google Pixel 2, and they worked great. While I didn't love the additional length from the adapter — the cord is already on the long side — the remote worked exactly as intended.
Finally, the braided nylon cord is both durable and resists tangling, something that I'm always appreciative of when reviewing wired headphones.
RHA MA650 headphones What's not good
What's not to like? Most of my concerns with these headphones have more to do with the ecosystem than the product itself. Most phones don't have headphone jacks anymore, which means using them on a Pixel 2 or HTC U12+ involves a dongle. Said dongles are often cumbersome and add length to a cord that was specifically designed to extend a certain distance — the MA650s are already quite lengthy.
If you're into running, these headphones aren't going to survive the abuse of sweat and grit, but they weren't really designed for it. I did attempt one run with them in my ears and, despite finding a comfortable fit, they kept coming loose, and I could hear the cord brushing against my shirt, making for a frustrating experience. If you want cheap Bluetooth headphones for working out, may I recommend these from Anker.
RHA MA650 headphones Should you buy them?
Are you still on the wired headphone train? Do you need great sound and excellent build quality without spending more than $60? Do you want a remote that works with Android phones? The RHA MA650s are your best bet.
RHA also makes the MA650s in a $99 Bluetooth version, but I still enjoy the reliability of a cord — especially not having to remember to charge them. If you're in the same boat, these headphones will be perfect for you.
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