RHA S500 Ultra-compact Aluminium In-Ear Headphones Review

Editor rating

5/5 on August 18, 2016 Reviewed by: Peter Alexander

User’s rating

161 reviews


  • Noise isolation
  • Compact size
  • Durability
  • Sound quality
  • Braided cable


  • None


Our experience with the RHA S500 was overwhelmingly positive. The headphones look and feel great, and their sound should appeal to most customers. They are the perfect example of what can be achieved even with a restricted budget when the company behind the product knows exactly what they are doing and build on years of experience.

The S500 from the renowned British headphone manufacturer RHA are the new basic model in their large line-up of remarkably well-built headphones. These are not to be confused with the S500i, another model from the same manufacturer, which includes a remote controller for Apple devices. We wouldn’t want to spoil anything, but would like to say right now that the S500 are hard to beat when it comes to the sheer value they offer.

Design and build quality

You never see anyone complaining about the build quality of headphones from RHA, and there’s a good reason why. The company uses high-grade aluminum alloy construction, which is both lightweight and durable. The premium silver housing is smaller than what you see on most other dynamic headphones, and smaller size means more comfort and less fatigue.

Their compact profile also lets you insert them fairly deep into your ears for more secure fit. We have tested several so-called fitness earbuds that actually were much more likely to fall out of our ears than the S500. Indeed, these may not be a wrong choice for running, gym, or any other sport, for that matter.

In the high-end category of headphones and earbuds, it’s now a common practice for manufacturers to use fabric-braided cables instead of regular plastic ones. Their advantages are twofold: first, they make the cable feel much nicer against the skin; second, they prevent the cable from tangling. With the S500, RHA brings this feature into the budget category, letting you experience all the advantages of braided cables without the premium price tag that often comes with them.

The cable ends with a gold-plated jack with short but sturdy stress reliever. Its slim profile makes it compatible with all common smartphones, tablets, MP3 players, and home audio equipment. The cable is separated into two individual channel cables by an adjustable plastic Y-splitter. By simply pulling on it, you can make the cable tighter or looser.

All headphones by RHA are designed in RHA’s research and development center in Glasgow, Scotland. The company stands behind the excellent quality of their products with 3-year manufacturer’s warranty. If you ever happen to have a problem with the headphones, you can just contact them directly and they will work tirelessly to solve it as quickly as they possibly can.

Sound quality

The RHA S500 use special micro-dynamic drivers developed by RHA. These tiny drivers boast an impressive frequency range of 16-22,000 Hz. Given how small they are, you might be inclined to think that they will lack in bass quality and quality. Fortunately, that’s not true at all.

Their overall profile represents the perfect balance between analytical sound and sheer, untamed fun. In other words, you still get to hear every last detail just as it was intended to be heard, but you also get a distinctly “V-shaped” sound signature. Of course, you can further tweak it to your liking using a software equalizer, but we predict that most customers will be completely satisfied with the headphones as they are.

When testing the sound of the S500 by listening to selected tracks from Pendulum, we couldn’t get enough of the deep bass. Mind you, when we say deep, we don’t mean bloated. Deep means that the headphones are capable of reproducing sub-bass frequencies. Those frequencies are responsible for making you feel the physical impact of bass, rather than hear it. Some headphones simply crank up the bass to 11, but, in the process, they completely abandon accuracy. You can still get the bloated bass with some software tweaking; it just isn’t there by default.

To test the mids, we switched from Pendulum to Audioslave. Songs by Audioslave are great because they combine captivating vocal performances with electric guitars and drums. Lesser headphones are usually not able to copy with this combination, resulting in a muddy, unclear sound. The S500 surprised us with their effortless reproduction of all instruments and vocals. That wouldn’t be possible if it wasn’t for the wide soundstage. It extends all the way around your head and far in front of you, making you feel like you are sitting approximately 10 meters away from a podium in a medium-size concert hall.

That leaves us with highs, which, while not being the highlight of the show, didn’t fail to put a smile on our faces. They come to life when listening to jazz, but they also make gaming very enjoyable. Explosions and gunshots suddenly sound more visceral when you listen to them with the S500 from RHA.

Thanks to S500’s deep fit, sound isolation is well above average. Even with regular single-flange eartips, the headphones block the vast majority of outside noise. When you replace the single-flange tips with the included triple-flange eartips, you won’t even be able to hear your own breathing.

What’s in the box?

The cardboard box the headphones come in includes 7 pairs of replaceable eartips, soft pouch, clothing clip, and RHA’s patent-pending ear tip holder. That’s quite a respectable assortment of useful accessories, considering that we are talking about a pair of basic headphones. 6 pairs of eartips are single-flange and 1 pair is triple-flange. The highlight is the provided soft, drawstring pouch. It has a fairly thick padding and keeps the headphones protected when you decide to carry them in your pocket next to your keys and loose change.

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