When it comes to iPhone earbuds, most of us tend to stick with the iconic white pair that Apple bundles in the box. With the Lightning connector limiting our choice, it feels like Bluetooth or bust when looking for an audio upgrade. But that’s before a new contender arrived, promising great in-ear audio with that elusive plug at an affordable price. This is our review of the RHA MA650i with Lightning.
- MSRP: $59.95
- Drivers: Custom dynamic model 380.1
- Frequency Range: 16 – 20,000Hz
- Impedance: 16 ohms
- Rated/max power: 1/5mW
- Sensitivity: 100dB
- Remote & mic: 3-button, Apple®
- Weight: 17g
- Manufacturer's Warranty: 3 years, international
In the Box
Straight out of the gate, the MA650i oozes quality. There’s no plastic blister-pack to mangle and dispose of, but a clean and sturdy cardboard shell that wouldn’t look out of place in an Apple store. Compared to the MA650 for Android, it’s a significantly different minimalist look.
Opening up reveals the lightweight machined aluminium buds, each housing a custom dynamic driver designed by Glaswegian in-ear audio specialists RHA. Aluminium is also used for the in-line remote and mic, with the controls hidden beneath a rubberised surface. The cables from each earpiece meet at a reinforced junction point, from which a 1.3m braided cable extends to that precious Lightning connector.
A pair of silicone tips come pre-fitted, but RHA also includes a generous range of tips in different sizes and styles to help find that perfect fit. Most of these are retained on a handy metal plate that’s about the size of a credit card, but a pair of Comply Foam Tsx 400 ear tips are also provided for even greater noise isolation should you need it.
The box also contains a woven bag that can either be used to store the MA650i or the bundled headphone tips (I chose the latter) and a plastic clothing clip to help keep the in-line mic in place during calls.
Overall, the MA650i hits all of those premium-quality notes that you’d want from a ‘Made for iPhone’ product, but with some practical design choices. Having a braided cable prevents the earbuds from becoming a snagged and knotted mess in the bottom of a pocket, and the ear tip plate means that all the spares won’t disappear over time.
I tested the RHA MA650i with an Apple iPhone XS. A mix of music from iTunes, Spotify, Youtube, Netflix and mobile games were used, including both streamed and downloaded content. Several calls (both direct and conference) were made, and I also tried using it with the Siri voice assistant.
Even without anything playing, sound isolation was superb. It didn’t matter if I was in a crowded coffee shop, a packed commuter train, or hitting the city streets: the MA650i did a great job of keeping unwanted noise away from my eardrums. Even with a snug fit the buds never felt uncomfortable, and I could comfortably spend hours at my office desk free from distractions.
Hit play, and I was immediately struck by the surprising clarity and separation the MA650 provide. It didn’t matter if I was listening to classic rock, modern funk, dynamic orchestral soundtracks or grimy metal - the balanced and even tone handled everything I played without issues. Picking out individual instruments and melodies was easy, whether I was listening to Daft Punk’s Get Lucky, Ocean Colour Scene’s The Riverboat Song, or Yoshi Horikawa’s Bubbles.
If I had to be picky, it’d be around the lower-mid to upper-bass range. Tracks like Madeon’s Imperium can sound a little cluttered and full at times, muting the synth brass a little. But it feels like I’m hunting to pick holes, as the overall experience is incredibly satisfying. Vocals are clean and distinct, the top end doesn’t get mushy, and clear mids provide a robust backbone to the whole performance. Driver placement can alter the acoustics dramatically, so getting a good fit with the range of tips provided is absolutely essential.
It shouldn’t need to be said, but the MA650i isn’t intended for sports or gym use. Try as I might, the buds would slip out as soon as I got my sweat on, even if my head was fairly stationary. If you’re hoping for one set of earphones to handle every situation, this isn’t it.
As a headset for phone calls, the MA650i delivered impeccable listening quality. It didn’t matter if I was calling a landline, cellphone or making a conference call, I always felt I was getting the best the source offered. By contrast, callers said that the microphone occasionally sounded muted, and I needed to work to get the best placement for the inline mic.
Summoning Siri works as expected with a long press of the in-line mic’s central button, and my questions were understood without issue (virtual assistant performance aside).
The RHA MA650i with Lightning is a gorgeous set of in-ear headphones that has crystal-clear audio to go with those sharp, stylish looks and durable build quality. It represents a significant step up from the set Apple bundle with every iPhone, and will have you discovering hidden detail in every track listened.
However, the MA650i won’t be for everyone. As alternatives, RHA also has a version with 3.5mm jack for Android devices and a wireless bluetooth version for those desperate to cut the cord. And while the MA650i is an excellent step on the road to high-quality audio, the MA750 Wireless might be a better pick for the more experienced audiophile.
But, for the fresh iPhone user looking to get an affordable upgrade on those plain white Apple buds, the MA650i is an obvious choice. At the $60 MSRP, these are an absolute bargain, making them an essential upgrade for anyone who uses their smart device for entertainment on the go.