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The RHA S500i is a worthy IEM if you are in the market for something that’s clearly out of the entry level segment. Most would-be audiophiles would do well to consider it as their first proper upgrade.
A while ago I had the pleasure of reviewing the high end and absolutely brilliant RHA T10i. The headphones showcased what RHA is capable of in terms of build, customisability and pure audio performance. All this did come at a price though – a hefty 15k of your hard earned cash.
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The RHA S500i on the other hand comes for less than a third of that price tag. At that relative bargain could it give you a slice of that RHA high end aural goodness which the T10i brought with it? Let’s find out.
The S500i goes with angular edges as a design philosophy unlike the T10i which had soft moulded curves to its housing. The S500i features aluminium alloy construction for its housing which hold the absolutely tiny (6mm) 140.1 micro dynamic drivers. The headphones are one of the lightest I’ve tried and fit comfortably in your ears. With the six pairs of dual density / bi flange silicone ear tips that they come with you can easily find a good seal.
The cable is fabric sheathed from the 3.5 mm jack up to the Y split and from thereon changes to a standard rubberised finish. The upper bit with rubber sheathing seems a little flimsy and is perhaps the only sub-par feature in the overall build quality of the headphones. The housing itself though light, feels sturdy. In terms of features you get a three button inline remote and microphone that’s designed to work specifically with iPhones. That’s the reason for the “i” part of its name. With Android phones only the play pause button works (not the volume up/down).
How do they sound? Quite nice actually. The sound signature is quite bright and sparkly without suppressing the mids all that much. The detail is nice and the bass is hard hitting. It’s like a nice smooth and shallow U across the frequency spectrum. It’s a joy to listen to metal or guitar driven music on these. Anything heavy and crunchy sounds superb. I’d say the detail on the S500i is a shade above the M6 Pro which I reviewed recently, but the bass is tighter on the M6 Pro.
What about the negatives? There aren’t many to be honest. The bright sound signature might feel harsh to those used to warmer headphones but that’s just a matter of preference. The S500i is in no way sibilant. Another small niggle is that while the construction and build quality is superlative, it would’ve been nice if the headphones came with a hardcase. Having one would’ve helped reduce wear-and-tear when in storage, and increase their life by that much. To be fair though, RHA seems to have a lot of faith in the quality of their offerings because even the S500i comes with its standard three year warranty.
To wrap up, the RHA S500i is a worthy IEM if you are in the market for something that’s clearly out of the entry level segment. Most would-be audiophiles would do well to consider it as their first proper upgrade.
Drivers: Micro dynamic
Frequency range: 16-22,000Hz
Impedance: 16 ohms
Rated/max power: 1/5mW