Walk onto any subway platform and, aside from littered cement floors, you’ll see an egregious number of Apple AirPods. Those true wireless earbuds are virtually unavoidable in urban environments and have yet to be usurped by another product. The RHA TrueConnect, though, is taking direct aim at Apple’s true wireless interpretation with competitive pricing and a similar design.
Editor’s note: this review was updated on April 8, 2019, to reflect objective scoring methods.
Who is the RHA TrueConnect for?
- Commuters. At this point, the convenience of true wireless earbuds is inarguable. It isn’t just that the TrueConnect cuts the cord that makes them great for city slickers, though, the passive isolation is extraordinarily effective at attenuating outside noise.
- General consumers. If you’re looking to indulge and considering true wireless audio, then these are a good start, and possibly end, to your search. The IPX5 rating means these are durable, while the sharp-looking design makes them versatile in any situation.
- Athletes. Aside from sweat-resistance, the earbuds fit well and that’s an imperative feature for workout earbuds. Additionally, they provide an excellent fit that stays stable throughout a variety of activities.
Purchasing the TrueConnect gains listeners a sleek charging case, a USB-C cable, seven pairs of dual-density silicone ear tips, three pairs of Comply Foam Rx-2000 ear tips, a stainless steel ear tip caddy, and the true wireless earbuds.
How is the RHA TrueConnect built?
RHA has repeatedly manufactured sophisticated products, from the cheap MA390 to the pricier MA750 Wireless, no matter the model, the company knows how to make it look refined. The TrueConnect is no different.
Although the earbuds sport an all-plastic construction, the matte finish promotes a premium feel. Take note audio companies: this is how you make a plastic earbud. The stem design still looks weird, but it does aid in the removal of the earbuds.
Although the RHA TrueConnect design echoes that of the AirPods’, it has one thing the AirPods don’t: angled nozzles—rather—nozzles of any sort for that matter. The assortment of ear tips works in tandem with this ergonomic build to create a strong seal and improve isolation.
The earbud housings are much clunkier than the AirPods, but things remain comfortable even during long stretches of listening. It would, however, have been nice if the earbuds lay flush with the ear, but RHA still managed to cram plenty of components into a fairly compact space.
Included with the TrueConnect is a charging case that sports a modest, yet sleek design. To access the earbuds, listeners rotate the main compartment upwards. This is by far and away the most handsome true wireless charging case, and inlaid on the front of it are three LEDs which indicate remaining battery levels.
These could be your next workout earbuds
Despite not having wing tips or something of that nature like deliberate workout earbuds do, the IPX5-certified RHA TrueConnect earbuds are a great option for exercising. The comprehensive onboard controls which, yes, include volume adjustments, are easy to use so you never have to remove your phone from your pocket mid-workout again.
The earbuds maintain a stable fit and reliable connectivity, making them great for daily use.
What’s more, their isolation abilities successfully insulated me from neighbors’ grunts and treadmill stomps. There is a bit of wind noise when taking these outside but it’s by no means deafening.
The mic is good
Background noise is slightly attenuated, but the integrated microphone isn’t anything fancy like the Bose SoundLink On-Ear’s dual-mic setup or the Plantronics Voyager 6200 UC technology. That said, it is good for daily use.
Battery life is fine
Our objective testing—whereby we subject the earbuds to a steady 75dB output—yielded 4.38 hours of playback time, slightly less than RHA’s posited 5-hour readout. While this is handily bested by the Jabra Elite 65t, it’s still enough to get through a handful of commutes or trips to the gym.
The USB-C charging case provides an additional four charge and supports fast charging. If the earbuds’ batteries are low, 15 minutes in the case provides a 50-percent charge. Once you arrive at your destination, just plop the earbuds back in to complete the charge cycle.
Connectivity is stellar
Maybe it’s the Bluetooth 5.0 support or the stem design that’s purportedly conducive to stable connectivity, regardless the TrueConnect earbuds maintain a reliable connection with ease. That is, so long as you remain within the 10-meter Bluetooth range.
Where the earbuds struggle is outdoors, but they fair well at the gym, in coffee shops, and in my apartment. Unfortunately, the TrueConnect doesn’t support AAC, LDAC, or aptX, but SBC has markedly improved since its inception. Plus, at the end of the day, many of our ears are too old to notice the difference between high-quality codecs anyway.
See: Test your hearing
How do the TrueConnect ‘buds sound?
These sound great for consumer earbuds. There’s nothing neutral about the frequency response, but that’s fine. RHA’s TrueConnect ‘buds are fun to listen to and despite the seemingly aggressive bass response as depicted by the chart, it isn’t overwhelming or painful to listen to. Quite the contrary, it’s a pleasure to listen with these earbuds, again due to the effective isolation.
Isolation and bass response further improve after swapping out the pre-installed silicone ear tips for the Comply memory foam ones. Since the latter essentially mold to the ear canal, it creates a tailored fit and the dense material works to shoo external noise away.
Lows and mids
Contrary to the modest, mature look of the TrueConnect, the bass response is ridiculous. In Simon Jefferis’ song Foxtrot, the perpetual bassline is nearly palpable. When Abhi The Nomad part begins at 1:22, his vocals are audible despite the exaggerated low-end.
The song would benefit from greater frequency separation, which is even more apparent during the chorus where Abhi The Nomad says, “Foxtrot.” The second syllable is rather high-pitched for Abhi’s vocal register and requires more effort to hear above the kick drum.
That said, it does make the song even more fun to listen to because of the bass bump. I wouldn’t recommend these for any kind of audio mixing, but to the general consumer, these will sound delightful and engaging.
The highs are the weakest part of the TrueConnect’s sound signature as the fundamental frequency response of hi-hat hits masked by the guitar and drumming while the harmonics ring overly emphasized, making for a weird listening experience.
For instance, in Dave Matthews Band’s song Lie in Our Graves, there’s part of a solo can be heard at 2:34. It’s at this point that the hi-hats are most audible, and yet the resonance sounds overly processed, like someone really wants you to appreciate the cymbal detail. Overall, the sound is still fun, but songs with excess cymbal hits may be difficult to bear.
Should you buy the RHA TrueConnect?
Absolutely, the RHA TrueConnect is a great pair of earbuds. While the lack of aptX support is suspect and disappointing, the TrueConnect remains an exceptional package for listeners who appreciate fine design and don’t want to deal with poor connectivity. Additionally, the fact that these ‘buds are comfortable for multi-hour listening sessions is a delight, especially since the larger alternatives tend to pain the ear after an hour or so.
If you’re put off by the high price, that’s completely understandable: $169 is a lot to spend on wireless earbuds that don’t even include high-quality codec support. If that’s the case, there are plenty of sub-$100 options available that work well, too, if you don’t mind the less appealing aesthetic.
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