Thursday, 8 August 2019

Let's hear it for the RHA TrueConnect earbuds!

Here's my report.

I got the earbuds home, and was of course eager to open the box.

It was another well-packaged piece of audio kit. Nothing flimsy about the box. Inside it was layer under layer, which eventually revealed the buds, the charging case, the USB charging cable, an impressive selection of soft spacers for achieving a perfect fit inside each ear, including some that you could mould, and the usual paperwork.

Thankfully, the instruction leaflet was clear, and it needed to be. The 'controls' consisted of a button on each earbud, and many different things happened by pressing one or other button, and in various patterns. But I got the hang of the basics pretty quickly. The only 'difficult' thing for me was remembering not to push the earbuds into the ear with a straightforward poke. That would press in the button, with consequences. I had to learn to do it with a more delicate touch, and in another way.

That said, the earbuds were a good comfortable fit with just the spacers they came with, and they stayed in. They were not visible under my hair; but if worn outdoors, and exposed by the breeze, there would be nothing naff or embarrassing about them. Nor did they suggest that I was using a pair of hearing aids, poor old soul.

Well, the first thing to do was to switch on bluetooth, and get the buds paired with my phone. This needed a long press of the right-hand button, and took me two attempts. Then it was all systems go.

As you can see, the earbuds came almost fully charged. The charging case however was only one-third charged, so I attached the USB cable and plugged the other end into the fast charger I use for my phone.

It soon sucked in a full charge, which it would pass on to the earbuds whenever they were put into their resting-places inside the case. They could only go in one way, which ensured that the electrical contacts lined up perfectly.

Leaving the phone's equalizer alone for now, I tried out a variety of music, instrumental and vocal, wanting to assess the quality of the sound output through the earbuds.

That's just the first few. I did rather get carried away, and a lot of time passed! At the end of it I was satisfied that I'd acquired a pukka piece of kit, and that it was worth tweaking the sound using the equalizer facilities in the phone. So today I've been giving this a little attention, and (somewhat accidentally) I have improved the sound to suit my ears, so that items like these sound superb:

These earbuds are primarily for times when I want to play my music loudly enough to disturb my neighbours. I'm not going to blast them into outer space. So I'm jigging around in apparent silence to whatever exciting or moving piece is playing. I hope they appreciate it.

Lately, of course, the JBL speaker has been in action, and it's not impossible that discernible output from that has leaked out of my home, giving the nearby keen-eared a taste of what I like. I'll have to be careful not to ruin my reputation as a quiet mouse of a neighbour, never heard, never a nuisance. This need for care and consideration has added force now, because the tweaks made on my phone to make the earbuds sound crystal-clear, loud and gorgeous, also benefit the speaker. I've just played Foo Fighters' Learn to Fly, and the blast from the speaker almost blew the windows out. I exaggerate, but not much.

I hope I don't go deaf.

Since both items are new and bring me up-to-date with personal audio equipment, which do I prefer? The JBL speaker or the RHA earbuds? 

It's horses for courses. It depends on the circumstances. 

The speaker is quick and easy to connect with my phone and delivers pleasant, well-balanced music and speech to my ears, with as much volume as I want. At home, it's a doddle to pick it up and place it wherever I want - even hanging it up on a hook if necessary - all the time leaving the phone itself in some convenient spot. Its battery life seems remarkable. Its practical advantage over earbuds is that you remain fully aware of things happening around you - you can hear a cooking timer go off, or the front doorbell, for example. And of course, in situations where you don't want anything inside your ears - taking a shower, for instance - the speaker is the right companion. This one is actually meant to be waterproof, so it could certainly be splashed, or touched with wet hands, without consequences.

All this said, the sound from the speaker is unconfined, and can escape through open windows. If I really ramp up the volume it must be audible to my neighbours. In the caravan, music can carry a long way in the stillness of the night, even at a lowish volume, and I wouldn't be able to use the speaker after 11.00pm. 

Whereas I could use the earbuds. I could have those at a satisfying volume for attentive listening at any time of the day or night, and never bother anyone. And that would be true in all kinds of public situations. 

Earbuds also render me oblivious to outside distractions, which can be excellent if wanting to concentrate on what I'm hearing. Of course, such isolation from audible signals and warnings is also potentially dangerous, making me an easy target for street crime, and a likely victim of car and bicycle collisions too. For those reasons, I'd avoid wearing earbuds when out and about. 

And there's something else: earbuds cut you off from contact with other people. That's not good for social interaction. I spend a lot of time on my own, and I positively welcome all those casual encounters with strangers that add so much interest to my days out. I don't want to be deaf to them. There's another aspect to that: as my earbuds would be concealed by my hair, I could offend people by appearing to ignore them. 

So I see the speaker as a good thing for all moderate-volume listening in daytime, or up to 11.00pm in the evening. And the earbuds as a good thing if I want (for the sake of excitement) to turn up the volume, or keep my listening completely private. I can use the earbuds at any time, but I need to accept the social isolation they impose, and, if away from the house, be aware of the very real risks of getting run over or mugged.

Which sounds better?

The earbuds produce the same clean, clear sound wherever I am, and everything is distinct, meaning that I can pick out individual voice and instrument elements if I want to. They are the better equipment for listening very carefully with.

The sound from the speaker will fill the space I'm in, getting both reflected and absorbed, and is noticeably louder and richer in a small room. So I especially like using the speaker in my small bathroom and kitchen. In my lounge, a larger room entirely, the speaker hasn't the same impact, and I might well prefer to listen with the earbuds.

So: where and when are the main things that steer me towards using one or other device. And as regards absolute sound quality, my personal vote definitely goes to the earbuds.  

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