Simply put, I'm not a fan of headphones. For me, they are bulky, unsightly and, more often than not, uncomfortable.
Sonically, I've found in-ear earphones provide a much better reproduction of sound, too. You don't need to have the volume as loud and they isolate external noise much more efficiently, too.
So doing a review on RHA's SA950i on-ear headphones (about US$60) was sure to be a challenge for me. However, recently I reviewed RHA's MA150 earphones and the MA350 earphones, too. I was really impressed with the quality of these earphones, especially when taking the price into consideration. So when RHA offered me the opportunity to try its SA950i on-ear headphones, I couldn't help but be tempted -- hoping to have my mind changed on headphones.
The SA950i's have a more traditional headphone look about them, especially in comparison to the cheaper, but more modern looking CA200 headphones. And that's not a bad thing.
RHA describes the SA950i's as offering professional-grade audio, whilst being compact and lightweight. And they certainly are compact and lightweight. Weighing just 105 grams, the SA950i's fit securely on your head. It's easy to customize the fit with the adjustable chrome sliders. They don't feel unnecessarily big or bulky, either.
The 40mm titanium-coated mylar drivers are encased in plastic, droplet-like enclosures with soft padding for contact on your ears.
RHA's shielded, 1.5m, detachable fabric braided cable -- with gold plated connectors -- easily connects to the headphones, while, of course, the other end goes into your source of audio.
The remote, which has volume up and down and a multifunction button (play / pause / answer call / end call) sits conveniently near the top of the cable, within easy reach. It has a good feel about it, and it's easy to feel for the controls as opposed to having to look down and see what button you want to press. The main function button is nicely indented -- your finger just slips into it -- so you know exactly where you are as soon as you touch it.
The SM950i's look good and the build quality is nice. While they don't necessarily feel high-end, they don't feel cheap either. They are very light, but I found they were sturdy and I definitely didn't worry about putting them in my bag with everything else.
I mentioned that the SA950i's fit securely, but what about comfort? After many hours of use, I found the SA950i's to be quite comfortable, once I'd adjusted them to sit on my ears correctly. I didn't get that horrible pinching feeling you can sometimes get with some other on-ear headphones. They held to my ears, but not with an unnecessary weight.
If anything, I would have preferred the headphones to fit slightly more snugly to my ears to help get that noise-cancelling effect. And the speakers felt just a little far away from my ears, I wanted them to be nearer. However, once they were on, those niggles soon faded away.
I did a little test wearing them while hoovering the house. They stayed on, were comfortable and decent at noise cancellation, while producing a full sound -- though I had to push the volume a fair bit, but not to harmful levels.
Overall, I found the sound of the SA950i's to be satisfying. As with the MA150 and MA350 earphones, the SA950i's produced a full and warm sound that was engaging and detailed. My only complaint is that the mid-level frequencies seemed a little too emphasized, creating a slightly muffled appearance to the sound. I found it particularly noticeable if I was listening to music on speakers or other earphones and then switched to the SA950i's.
The remote and built-in mic worked flawlessly. I had no problem with my voice being picked up at the other end. Everything worked as expected when making or receiving calls using the SA950i's.
While I'm not converted to headphones, the SA950i's certainly have made an impression on me. The subtle but stylish look is appealing: they feel comfortable, they're compact and lightweight and they perform well -- even if sound reproduction feels a bit confined.
Considering the $60 price tag, the SM950i's really do appeal. If you're looking for a budget pair of on-ear headphones, the SM650i's are worth checking out.