As someone who grew up with an audiophile Dad and a musician brother, I can say, I’ve learn to appreciate and even differentiate what ‘ordinary’ is from ‘superb’. Back in the day, (and with this example I risk giving away my age), I used to borrow my mom’s Walkman and marveled at how those tiny, orange-colored foam covered speakers can pump “Close to You” by The Cure. Innovation back then involves making everything, anything portable. Despite wearing what people may characterize as mini-earmuffs and the lo-fi output it was cool nonetheless. Back then, those portable cassette players were all the rage and it was Walkman or bust.
Fast forward 30 years we now have a gazillion options of which ones to put over (or in) our ears. Not only are there a multitude of brands, each brand has its own tiers of ordinary to audiophile level, with each tier offering better sound, color options and fit. Not only do too many options confuse us consumers, purchasing an additional pair when your phone already comes with it is a head-scratcher to say the least. For millions of mobile phone users who already have earphones, why would one even bother purchasing an additional pair? Some say all earphones are created equal. But some are more equal than others. RHAs S500i belongs to the latter.
For starters, the S500i is marketed as a “noise isolating in-ear headphone”. To make sure that, indeed, it does as advertised to everyone, the box comes with 7 pairs (6 pairs plus the one installed) of ear-tips for that noise-isolating fit. The one installed was a bit too loose so I changed it to a larger one. The thing though with these ear tips is that it’s a PITA to install. It’s like threading a needle but 10x more frustrating. You’ll also have to try more than one set of eartips to make sure you get that seal. You’ll know when you have that seal when it doesn’t fall off when you tilt your head and when ambient noise is cancelled out. I even at time use these earphones as earplugs in my workstation for those times when I need to focus more on the task at hand.
6 pairs of tips plus the one installed. There should be a pair that gives you a good seal.
The ear tips are what you’d expect for noise-cancelling earphones: silicone, translucent and smooth to the touch which should be easy on the ears. The housing is brushed bronze aluminum which, for the fashion conscious, should pair well with their OOTD. It’s got that angled cut on the edge with an L and R printed on each. Save for the left/right designations, the two are identical. This may pose a challenge when you need to wear the S500i in a dimly lit area since you won’t be able to tell which goes to your left or right ear. The only way to tell is that the mic attachment goes right along Right cable. The volume rockers ( + and – ) on the controller are responsive and makes a nice discreet ‘tick’ when pressed.
The subtle shine of the aluminum makes it a looker.
The strain relief – that part where the cable meets the housing – is an almost inflexible rubber that protects and secures the attachment. The cables themselves are a tad thicker than your average earphone and has that non-stick feel to it. I find it easier to untangle too compared to the earphones that came with my phone. The bottom-half of the cable has a protective fabric-braidedjacket which adds to the premium feel. The 3.5mm jack is housed in aluminum and exudes that audiophile vibe given by that aggressive no-slip grip design.
Gold-plated connection housed in aluminum. The fabric braided cable is a nice touch.
Two words. It’s awesome. What’s critical is to get that seal right. Versus the earphones that came with your phone, there’s no contest. The S500i wins, hands down. If you’ve been mulling on upgrading your music streaming service so you can bump-up the stream quality to 320k kbit/s, do it while rocking the S500i. It’ll be worth it.
Details of the songs I listen on a daily basis now come out cleaner. Cris Cornell’s vocals in Soundgarden’s “Day I tried to live” is just more deliberate. Interstate Love Song by Stone Temple Pilot just became a lot more road trippy.
Live performances are just as crisp. Check out Dave Matthews Band rendition of “Say Goodbye” in their Live in Rio performance and be mesmerized. The S500i goes into detail in ensuring you hear this 12-minute aural bonanza of a song about a tryst gone awkward.
If you’re into pop, Hailee Steinfeld’s “Starving” is just a treat. You can now hear that ruffle in the snare drums come chorus time.I listened to classic EDMs as well and the sound was just suave. The echoing effect in Alesso’s “Years” is much prominent while adding more thump to the subdued bass of Otto Knows’ “Million Voices”.
Gaming with these earphones won’t be as immersive as your over-the-ear headphones but if you don’t have the latter, this will definitely give you more punch than the default ones. I wore the S500i playing Uncharted 4 on the PS4 and yes, you’ll hear every sound effect but it won’t give you an immersive feel.
For calls, the performance won’t be that different from the earphones that came with your phone. There’s just that extra bonus of just hearing the person you’re talking to due to the noise-isolating nature of the earphones.
The S500i is a well-balanced, good-as-advertised noise-isolating earphone. You definitely see and hear the difference versus your default earphone. If you’re in the market for an upgrade, put this at the top of your list. Just make sure you get a good seal.