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RHA S500i Review - Small In Size And Price, Impressive In Sound Quality!

As a refresher, RHA is one of the most respected brands in the budget to mid audiophile industry. They curate premium in ear monitors that usually presents more value than the suggested price tag. As a testament, I personally fell in love with their old flagship model called the MA750i and entry midrange MA450i which both touts sweet combination of looks, build and nice audio quality.
RHA S500i review
RHA S500i review

Fast forward 2016, we have recently had a chance to check out their latest offering, the RHA S500i. It's probably their first micro dynamic driver powered in ear monitors which is meant their entry midrange line.

Without any further delay, let's all find out if RHA improved their sound signature in this RHA S500i review.

RHA S500i Specs

Driver Unit: 140.1 Custom Micro Dyanmic Drivers
Impedance: 16 Ohms
Sensitivity: 100 dB
Frequency response: 16 - 22 kHz
Rated / Max Power: 1/5 mW
Connector: 3.5 mm gold plated straight jack
Cable: 1.35 m fabric braided cables
Price: USD 59.99 (mic version), 1,750 Pesos (no mic version)

Disclaimer: This review unit was seeded by RHA for an honest review

Unboxing / Accessories

RHA's new box design
RHA's new box design

RHA used a new type of packaging with the S500i. You can easily see their patented eartips holder on one side and the in ear monitors immediately on the other side. It's also more compact that doesn't make it eat a lot of space.
Inclusions found inside
Inclusions found inside

Upon opening the package, we were greeted nicely by the small S500i immediately, eartips holder with 6 different type of high quality silicon gels + 1 pair that's attached to the S500i already. There's also an shirt clip, carrying pouch included and the usual paper documentations.

From the seven pair of tips included, there's a special dual flange silicon tip that should fit well for some, but there's no foamies included that's understandable for a budget IEM. As a whole and as usual, it was a generous package from RHA.

Build Quality / Design

Well machined aluminum body
Well machined aluminum body

RHA is well known for the tank like durability of their products with 3 years of warranty. That only shows how much confidence this company have for their offerings. The S500i is no different, even with this more affordable offering they didn't cut much on corners.
Left marking and flexible strain relief here
Left marking and flexible strain relief here

The body of this IEM, jack and microphone are still made out high grade aluminum that feels super tough. The 3.5 mm jack has gold plating for better conduction, the rubber coated buttons on its mic appears to be well made and 60% of its rubberized cables is protected with braided cloth.
Mic w/ controls for iPhone
Mic w/ controls for iPhone (It also works for Android, but the answer button and mic only)
The high quality 3.5 mm gold plated jack
The high quality 3.5 mm gold plated jack

Like I said earlier, the tips included are also made out of high quality silicon that surely won't get brittle and break for years. Then except for the y-splitter, the strain reliefs found in the body of the IEM and jack have good amount of flex that protects the cables inside from the force of accidental pulling.

Then my other concern here is the non-braided cloth coated parts of the cable that's thinner than expected. Fortunately, the texture feels nice, flexible enough and it doesn't suffer from memory wires that still gives me confidence that this set will still last.

Going to the design, we like the minimalist look of this set. The textured aluminum parts all over is aesthetically elegant and we think that this is well engineered all over.

When worn straight the microphone and buttons on the right is very easy to locate. Then even if you're not looking into the left and right prints it is still easy to locate as there's a dot like texture on the left that serves as a marking.

Another thing that we like here is there's minimal microphonics (cable noise) even if you aren't wearing this over ear and won't use the shirt clip. That's pretty rare considering most sets that we tried are really noisy when worn in straight style while walking.

Lastly, this has a cable cinch above the y-splitter to let you manage the wires better.

Comfort and Isolation

In this category, finding the right tips is very important. For me the one who gave me the best seal, fit and comfort is the smallest tip with medium size bore. When properly worn deep, this IEM is extremely comfortable to wear which feels like that you're not wearing anything at all. In addition to that statement, it feels light, non fatiguing and doesn't itch compared with other low grade tips.

One of the strongest points of this set is its prowess in isolating noise. It reminds me of my old VSonic VC02 in terms of blocking outside noise. The deep insertion here did wonders as I can't hardly hear all the people talking beside me even if they're shouting. So far, the very loud horns of trucks and buses are the few outside noises when you get the proper seal of this set.

However, that also makes this in ear monitor quite dangerous to use in the streets as it won't make you aware of your surroundings. So we suggest that you take it off first when crossing the street.

Sound Quality

S500i pairs well with the entry level FiiO X1
S500i pairs well with the entry level FiiO X1

The main highlight and most important part of this IEM is its sound quality. Gladly this is by far one of the most enjoyable affordable sets we ever tried. The RHA S500i goes with one of the more refined type of sound signature that presents great balance all over the spectrum. Something refreshing and very different from RHA's usual warm and U-shaped house sound of the past.

Right off the bat, I was instantly immersed with the first song I played using this IEM.

The bass region isn't bloated, has armature driver like speed and tightness, but surprisingly don't have loss of sub-bass extension details on tracks certain tracks that needs it. We like that it didn't have the less controlled big type of bass from the MA450i and even the MA600i that bleeds in the vocal parts of the songs sometimes.

One highlight of the S500i is how clear it delivered the mids and vocals of the song. It's nearly flawless and has good amount of energy embedded that makes either male of female voices shine. It's even clearer than the Mi Hybrids and can rivals even the likes of VSD5 in terms of clarity. While the lower mids and upper mids of the higher priced MA750i sounds fuller, more refined and has less grains, having something with this type of quality is definitely impressive for the price.

Going to the highs, most of you will find it just okay. Yes there's some nice sparkle, but it is also prone to sibilance or the thing that we call "hissing". Fortunately, highs still feels natural and far from being rolled off.

Another highlight of this set is on how well it managed to make its instrumental separation this good for something so cheap. All the lossless tracks I tested were very detailed in the instrument part that makes everything distinguishable. It's good enough to make you know where the sound is coming from.

In terms of staging, you won't also expect that a small type of IEM will have some sort of wide open sound and near 3D like effect. Gladly, the S500i was able to pull it off in that department. Plus it's life like and natural sounding enough for me. It's not as big as the Havi B3 Pro I or VSD5, but still has more room compared with most similarly priced and even some higher priced sets.

Rated only at 16 Ohms, I mostly didn't have a problem in making this earphones shine. Even some entry level smartphones like the Acer Liquid Zest 4G can drive it pretty well. From the phones I have right now, it sounds better using Foobar 2000 app on Nexus 6P and Huawei P9 Lite.

Then of course to unleash its true potential, pairing it with source like dedicated music HiFi Music Players, PC w/ good sound card and or amped phones is needed. Fortunately, even if you don't have the likes of those high-end HiFi sources, most mobile phones are good enough to make the S500i shine.

Overall, this pair is a dramatic upgrade over the old MA450i and even the MA600i of the past. It's a good all rounder, but you'll find it more suitable for vocal centric, live, acoustic and highly detailed tracks.

Note: It's mic did just okay for calls and some recordings, but it doesn't have noise cancelling

Pros - Good style and build, minimal microphonics, comfortable to wear, isolates well, highly detailed (analytical) for the price, good tonal balance, natural sounding, 3 years warranty
Cons - No strain reliefs in the y-splitter, mic won't sound that clean when worn over-ear, sibilance is hearable, microphone quality did just okay


RHA's S500 / S500i sounds terrific for the price and size. I had a hard time finding flaws with the way this sounds for the price. Without exaggerations, it can compete among the best in its price and even beat most of the mainstream IEMs that's 2-3x higher cost than this. I may sound repetitive, but the RHA did a terrific job in tuning the S500i properly.

Build / Design - 4
Comfort / Isolation - 4.5
Sound - 4.25

Average - 4.25 / 5
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