The selection of headphones on offer has never been bigger and there are plenty of options to choose from, ranging from high-end cans such as the Bose AE2 to quality earbuds like the Monster Diddybeats, to affordable headphones like the SA-500 from RHA. A division of the Reid and Health Group - a British audio company based in Glasgow - RHA boasts a range of headphones and earphones that are all designed and engineered in the UK.
RHA's SA (Supra Aural) Series comprises three models - the professional grade SA-850, the lightweight SA-200 and the mid-range SA-500, which we'll be looking at in this review.
The cans sport an understated matte black finish that complements a similarly matte faux-leather headband for a neat minimalist look. Also available in white, the headphones feature adjustable sliding earcups so that you can find the best fit. Tipping the scales at just 105g, the SA-500 feel very light to wear and they're also unlikely to strain the seams of your bag. Although they don't actually fold or collapse, the headphones measure just 185 x 145 x 65mm, so they don't take up too much room.
We're not always hugely keen on cans that sit on the ears rather than around them as they tend to get rather hot and uncomfortable after a while. However, we found the SA-500 to be really comfy to wear. This is probably due to the fact that they're so light and also because the headband isn't too tight, so it doesn't feel like your ears are being squashed. The earcups are also carefully shaped to complement the contours of your ear, rather than sporting the traditional round shape. However, our lugholes did start to heat up a bit after several hours under the earcups, so wearing them for longer periods of time isn't quite as comfortable.
The earcups themselves swivel round (the wired cup by 180 degrees and the non-wired cup by 360 degrees) making one-eared listening a cinch - especially handy for a spot of DJing or when trying to share a song with a friend without bending the headphones out of all recognition.
One of the key features of the SA-500 is the detachable fabric braided cable, which has been designed to stay tangle free. Not only does this mean that you won't have to spend an age unravelling a ball of wire every time you take the headphones out of your bag, it also means that the cable should be more resilient to wear and tear, compared with conventional leads. The cable can also be unplugged from the headphones so you can remove it and roll it up for storage if you choose. This also means that if you catch the wire while you're wearing the headphones, it will simply pop out of the earcup, avoiding any damage to the wire or connections.
At 1.2m long, the lead is a fairly standard length that should give you plenty of leeway for movement if you're wearing the headphones when out and about. The company also sells replacement cables in case you lose it, and there's also a 3m cable available - handy for using at home for watching the TV without annoying your neighbours or your slumbering family members.
All of the cables sport gold-plated 3.5mm connections, although there's no 6.3mm adaptor included in the box so you'll have to supply your own if you intend to hook up the headphones to your hi-fi gear.
If you want the technical lowdown, the SA-500s feature 40mm mylar speakers driven by neodymium magnets and CCAW coils. That's all very well, but do they actually sound any good? We're happy to report that they sound very good indeed. The headphones produce a rich, warm sound that's well suited to a variety of musical styles and copes particularly well with dance tracks and heavy rock tunes. The bass is clear and punchy, and overall audio clarity is even maintained as the volume is cranked up - no crackling or tinny sounds here. If you push the volume too far then the audio does start to suffer, but your eardrums are more likely to give out before the sound quality does.
The RHA SA-500 headphones are a good quality product and at a reasonable £34.95, they're not going to break the bank, either. Good sound - and a particularly impressive bass performance - along with a neat, lightweight design and a surprisingly comfortable fit all combine to make these cans from RHA look like a very good buy. The inclusion of a detachable, non-tangle cable seals the deal.