The RHA and Nocs are radically different in engineering despite both being in-ear designs. The RHA uses a 10mm driver and channels the audio through a funnel. The Nocs on the other hand uses two drivers, a 5.78mm tweeter and a 8mm woofer to provide sound in a wider range. This is exciting because the one issue I had with the fantastic NS800 was the lack of meaty bass. As far as I can remember, this is the first time I’ve ever tried out a dual-driver system like this.
Let’s take a closer look at the RHA MA450i. The earphones don’t necessarily feel cheap but they certainly give off a feeling of being “economy”. Appropriate for the $50 price tag I suppose. My RHA contact made sure that I knew that the earphones were machined from aluminum - and they certainly are. The problem is that the mirror finish makes it look like cheap chrome plating (not unlike the chamfered edge on the iPhone 5). I think a matte finish would do wonders to this product. The RHA can conveniently found at your local Apple Store.
The Nocs NS600 Crush does aluminum right. It’s got the ideal bead-blasted grain and the design is wonderfully understated and purposeful. The tolerances and finishing are superior to the MA450i but they sport a higher $150 price tag. I think these are even more handsome than the NS800 or NS400; the aluminum looks fantastic and the black contrasts nicely with the silver. Being made from a softer metal, they do seem to scratch more easily though. One of the family characteristics of Nocs earphones is their compact design. Out of all the products that I’ve had a chance to test, the NS600's earbuds are the largest. “Large” is relative though, the NS600s are still tiny, it’s just that the NS800 is microscopic. The NS600 Crush are most easily purchased on Amazon.
What I adore about both of these headphones are the cables. The RHA has fabric braided cables that help reduce tangles. The Microsoft Zune’s headphones had similar wires and they were fantastic so it's good to see more companies do this. The Nocs NS600 has the best cables I’ve seen from the company. The transparent skin of the cable seems to be either thicker or stiffer than other headphones, preventing tangles and aiding with durability.
The RHA features a paper mesh while the Nocs has a metallic one. Notice the smaller diameter of the NS600.
Both the RHA and Nocs have Apple-friendly remotes with microphones. I’ve gotten so used to having these that I will refuse to buy headphones without a remote. Both remotes function perfectly fine but the RHA’s chrome trim comes off looking tacky.
Both headphones have inferior straight plugs (I prefer L-shaped plugs for pocket friendliness) and fairly standard splitter strain relief designs.
Like tires in cars and cooling in computers, sleeves are a crucial part of using in-ear headphones but often overlooked. A perfect seal is required for clear sound and deep bass. Both earphones include a large array of sizes but the RHA has an impressive co-molded sleeve design. The grey silicone is a firmer than the translucent, which in theory provides a balance of comfort and sound isolation. The problem is that the translucent material is simply too thin and isn’t firm enough to structurally hold itself in the ear. I’m sorry to say this but I found that the more simple Nocs sleeves provided more comfort and sound isolation than the heavily engineered RHA ones.
Cases are included in both packages. Both are dust magnets.
The most important portion of the review; how do they sound? Here are some observations:
The RHA are definitely good for the money. These earphones will satisfy 95% of music listeners out there. The bass is quite good and the midrange is illustrated well. They tend to be bass biased but that’s what most people seem to enjoy anyways. Treble is where these earphones suffer the most, it’s harsh and off-putting at times. I could also fault the narrow soundstage but honestly, it’s not too bad for the price. If you're still using the free earbuds that came with your phone, this is a nice step up.
Nocs NS600 Crush
The NS600 sound fantastic. The $200 NS800 quickly became my favorite earphones for accurate listening, and now, the $150 NS600 Crush have become my pick for casual listening. The 8mm bass unit is clearly effective as these have great bass and are punchy and energetic in general. If the NS800’s flat response isn’t for you, the NS600 Crush is a better option. The treble can be a bit harsh and the sound isn’t as precise as the NS800 but the punchy sound makes up for these faults.
Both the RHA and Nocs are great products worth buying. If you have $50 and can get over the showy design of the RHA, it’s a good buy. And if you have $150, spend it on the Nocs, they really are worth every penny.