A few months ago, my beloved earphones, the ULTIMATE EARS TripleFi 10 by Logitech, started to fray by their rubber cords — and then stopped transmitting sound. I was preparing for a trip at the time, and decided it was time for a brand new pair; however, not only have the TripleFi 10s been discontinued, but they had originally been a gift that retail for…$400.
I felt I could do better. (Better than $400, anyway.) So, I purchased a pair of the Klipsch Image S4 In-Ear Headphones.
The next day, I was approached by a British audio company called RHA, and asked to review their MA350 noise-isolating earphones. They looked very different from the ones I’d just bought, so I said I’d be happy to give them a try.
Now that I’ve had an opportunity to compare these two sets of earphones over a few months — both on airplanes and while taking long walks — here is my review.
RHA MA350 Earphones
PROS: Round as buttons and made from aircraft-grade aluminum (which, because these are a UK-made product, should be pronounced “aloo-MIN-i-um”), the tone of the MA350s leans towards a deep, full bass, making them an ideal choice for listening to books on tape, podcasts or your very funkiest tunes. Also, they do an excellent job of blocking out noise made by fellow passengers.
They feature a tangle-resistant, fabric-braided cable which eliminate the need to be precious with them in either use or storage. They come with a selection of black silicone tips in three different sizes; the smallest ones are just right for my narrow ear canals, providing a snug, comfortable fit. They also come with a small, black faux-velvet carrying pouch, which is easy to toss into your purse or luggage and makes zero noise as you rummage for your earphones on an airplane, train, bus, etc.
CONS: Every single time I use the MA350s, I have to squint for the Right and Left signifiers; printed in raised black-on-black rubber on the tip that connects the cord to the bud, the R and L are very hard to see unless you happen to be in a pool of light.
As soon as I put the earbuds in my ears, I can hear the cable brush or bounce against anything it touches as if it’s being magnified with a microphone. This is only a minor problem while I’m getting settled at my seat on a plane or train, but it can become pretty irritating while I’m walking for exercise; in fact, the faster I walk, the more the sound of the cord moving tends to interfere with my listening, especially to podcasts or radio stories.
THE VERDICT: These are ideal earphones for taking with you on planes, trains and automobiles, or for listening to movies, music, etc. in a hotel room. The fabric cable allows for soundless fiddling as you get yourself set up with them, and their ability to cancel out most surrounding noise is nothing short of excellent. However, the fact that they magnify the sound of their own cable touching anything and everything means they’re not a great choice for use with any type of exercise.
Klipsch Image S4 In-Ear Headphones
Price: $79.99 retail, but available for $39.99
PROS: The comfort of these light, tech-savvy earbuds is superior even to my dear TripleFi 10s. Slim and oblong, the black-and-chrome buds are angled for a secure fit, and are packaged with three different sizes of clear-silicone tips; the smallest, two-tiered tips fit beautifully and and cause no irritation to my ears. A quick glance underneath each bud at the R and L printed in bright, legible white is all I need to figure out which one goes in which ear.
The Image S4s offer a wide spectrum of bright tones without entirely sacrificing bass, and listening to just about anything with them (aside from my most bass-heavy music) is a distinct pleasure. Additionally, they do a pretty good job of canceling out external noise, and the rubber cable makes absolutely no sound as I walk.
CONS: The main drawback of the Image S4s is their delicate rubber cable. While it makes the ‘phones light and easy to store, I’ve managed to snag this cable repeatedly while seated and while walking; half the times I’ve done this, I’ve managed to pull one bud out of my ear with a harsh tug. Having already destroyed the rubber cable on my TripleFi 10s, I look into the future of my Image S4s and see a similar fate. Maybe a specialized clip could fix this problem?
The carrying case for the Image S4s is made of a light brushed aluminum that quickly proved a bummer while traveling. It clinks loudly against anything it touches in my purse or carry-on, as well as while being opened or closed. After using it on only one trip, I swapped it out for the rounder-edged, rubber tipped case that came with my TripleFi 10s.
THE VERDICT: These light, comfortable earphones are a great choice for exercising or while sightseeing (e.g., listening to audio tours), as long as you’re mindful of the delicate rubber cable. The buds rarely cause discomfort, and the cable makes no noise as you move. However, they’re not quite as good at canceling out external noise as the MA350s, making them a slightly less attractive option for use on a flight, train ride, etc.
Disclaimer: RHA provided me with these earphones free of charge,
expressly for the purpose of obtaining my review.
All opinions expressed are my own.