RHA CL750: excellent value, assuming you have a decent amp on your portable gear

Pros:  Stellar build quality, excellent price, comfortable, fantastic quality cable, excellent clarity, good bass control, balanced signature

Cons: Hard to drive, average soundstage

List Price: £99 ($129)

RHA CL750 Rating

Acknowledgment

The RHA CL750 was provided to me in exchange for running the UK leg of the RHA world-wide tour for the release of the DACAMP L1, CL1, and CL750.

Introduction

I’m getting to be a bit of an RHA veteran. I’ve known folks at the company for a couple years and have reviewed their products for almost as long. They are a good crew and they make products with some of the best build quality you’ll see, period, not just in their price range. They are unique among manufacturers in standing by that build quality with 3 year warranties.

I’ve had a few firsts with RHA: first Christmas card from a manufacturer (others do this also, but not all), first piece of swag (RHA have the coolest t-shirt), and first ever review sample in the s500i. That’s a good little headphone—aggressive and crunchy with a demand for power that is surprising. I personally like them, but I haven’t been a big fan of a couple of their units. The DACAMP L1 fell short for me whilst I understand it’s appeal; I didn’t like the crimes that the CL1 commits in the mids; and the T20 is just too friggin’ sharp in the treble.

Last year, RHA asked me to manage the tour of the DACAMP L1, CL1, and the CL750. It was the first tour I’d run. I’ve run two since and have one more coming—stay tuned. It wasn’t stipulated to me that I even had to review these—I’m not sure other tour leads necessarily did, but here I am, finishing out a trio where the first two didn’t really do it for me. We’ll see if the CL750 sounds better than its release mates.

Usability: Form & Function

Unboxing

The CL750 is well packaged, like every single item I have ever had grace my reviewing desk from RHA. These guys do not mess around with bad packaging. At the £99 price point we don’t get the fancy boxes of the CL1 or DACAMP L1, but we do get a nice card sleeve with good colour printed graphics, full description of the contents, and an admonition that you need an amplifier for this sucka. Inside the card sleeve the two earpieces are nicely presented. It very much reminds me of fiddle-heads. If positioning of headphones in a package can have a lyrical quality, this positioning does. Behind the IEMs we have the carrying case—it fits the CL750 better than the CL1 but is the same case. The carrying case includes a tip holder and plenty of tips: six pairs silicone single flange (S/M/L), two pairs double flange tips (M/L), and three pairs of Comply Tsx-200 foam tips (S/M/L). A clothing clip is also included.

Build Quality

I’ve not yet run into an RHA product with bad build quality and the RHA CL750 is no exception. The cable is soft and supple with an excellent chin slider, the shells are sturdy and shiny stainless steel, everything exudes class. These IEMs also come with a three year warranty. You can really rest easy with these.

Ergonomics

As mentioned above, the cable on these is very comfortable. The horn shape of the IEMs also easily slides into my ear and stays securely. RHA have made another comfortable headphone. I’ve found each and every one of their headphones very comfy.

Usability

The CL750, like its big brother, likes some juice. All the DAPs that play well with the CL1, also work for the CL750. Here are sources that I’ve tried the CL750 with and had success: Aune M1s, Shanling M2s, Echobox Explorer, TheBit Opus #3, Aune S6 (review in process), Questyle CMA600i, and of course the RHA DACAMP L1. The only unsuccessful pairing was the FiiO X5iii as its amp is a bit weak-sauce. I’d wager that Onkyo and Pioneer DAPs will have problems too, as they have comparable amps to the FiiO X5iii.

Audio quality

The CL750 has a balanced albeit a bit forward signature, with a little bit of emphasis in the bass and the treble. The bass has good depth and body but doesn’t have stellar definition and comes off as a bit slow and with some bloom compared to other iems in my possession. The mids are lightly pushed back, but I wouldn’t call them recessed. Vocals still have energy and passion. Electric guitars have nice crunch. Overall the sound is energetic and engaging. The treble has good energy, but not overwhelming energy like it’s stable-mate the CL1. The treble has good detail retrieval for the price, and a soundstage that is about par for this price level. Some percussive elements of the treble sound a bit more metallic than is natural.

Comparisons

Comparisons were volume matched using an SPL meter to approximately 78.2 dB. I use a home-made coupler for IEMS and white noise for matching. The reason I use white noise is because it reduces the potential for frequency response to affect how loud a headphone plays at. If I’m comparing two headphones and use a single tone to set volume, and these two headphones have different response at that frequency, then I’ve biased my comparison from the start. One headphone will be louder than the other due to frequency response curve. With white noise there is equal intensity at all frequencies, it’s like using the whole frequency spectrum to volume match. Because white noise is random, levels will vary while observing, as the figure at right shows, so the volume matched numbers below are subjective averaging of levels observed over approximately 20 seconds. I use 78.2 dB as this is generally enough volume for headphones to reach their full dynamic power, and it is well within safe listening levels. I’ve done enough volume matchings now that I can get within 0.5 dB of 78.2 by ear most days now, but the measurements are still important.

RHA CL1

The CL750 has most of the same characteristics of the CL1, but because it doesn’t have as high a treble spike, at volume-matched levels it sounds more balanced, with more true mids. The CL1 will play better with more sources as they are significantly less bright sounding and more natural sounding than the CL1. The soundstage is a little smaller than the CL1 and it doesn’t catch as many little details, but it also doesn’t amplify vinyl hiss or mastering noise from loudness warred tracks that wouldn’t be as pernicious without the big treble boost of the CL1. The CL750, provided it is driven properly sounds excellent with most material. I did comparisons for both using the copper cable, as I’m pretty sure this is exactly the same cable, with the only difference being whether it is detachable.

On 2Pac – God Bless the Dead, the vocal is further back in the stage and a bit duller sounding on the CL1 compared to the CL750. The mids are more energetic and enjoyable on the CL750 playing out of the Aune S6. The bass is a bit bigger on the CL1. The CL1 has a wider sound stage, and similar depth and height. The CL1 creates the illusion of greater depth by having recessed mids.

Listening to The Beach Boys – Sloop John B (DSD64), the bass is more linear on the CL750. The tinkles of the triangle are not overly emphasized and have nice detailed presentation and good tonality. The CL750 does a good job of letting all the varied instruments in this track shine. This is a precisely mastered stage with elements spread all over the stage in a variety of frequencies. The CL750 images everything well. On the CL1 the treble is sharper on the triangles and there is hiss from the recording that is inappropriately amplified. In addition, the mids are sucked out. It is not a natural sound. The image cast by the CL1 is a bit wider. Bass presentation of this track is pretty similar between the two IEMs.

The presentation of the CL1 is more restrained, due to the recessed mids, when listening to Infected Mushroom – Becoming Insane. Some may find this appealing as it allows lower treble elements and bass elements to separate from the mids a bit in space. The CL750 is more in your face and aggressive on this track.

As I’ve previously mentioned, the CL1 does a terrible job on Eagles – Hotel California (DCC Gold). The vocals are sucked out and lacking energy. They sound dull. The airplane in the intro is lost in the mix. It sounds more normal with the CL750.

UERR (Ultimate Ears Reference Remastered)

The UERR is a neutral reference IEM, so this comparison is probably the most important for nailing down the signature of the CL750. Looking at the frequency response charts from RHA, it looks like a mild V-shaped signature. Now we’ll see how it sounds.  In the past I’ve observed that at the same measured SPL, the UERR always sounds louder. To compensate for this I’ve dropped the SPL threshold on the matching to approximately 76dB on the UERR. In past comparisons, this has seemed to create an equal footing in past reviews.

On Massive Attack – Angel, the UERR drops deep and has good extension. The vocals sound natural and weighty. In contrast the vocals on the CL750 sound a bit sharper, but also clearer. Cymbals sound a bit splashy on this track with the CL750, whilst the UERR has a more shimmery and accurate presentation. The bass drops low and has good body on the UERR. The UERR has more focused and powerful bass than the CL750. Overall the bass is more satisfying on the UERR. For those who like a bit of bass bloom, the CL750 will give you this. The overall sound is clean on the CL750 and a little bit thin. There is some metallic crunch that is reminiscent of the s500i. More bass, and more upper mids would improve the tuning.

RHA s500i

The RHA s500i has a similar tuning with nice crunch on electric guitars, but it doesn’t like to be listened to at 78db. At that volume it is doesn’t accept tracks from outside the loudness war spectrum well. It sounds veiled in the mids and suppressed in the bass on quieter masterings. Both headphones have some metallic elements in the treble above and beyond what the instruments offer naturally. The s500i has a smaller sound stage that is confined to the head with limited depth and height. The image is good, but quite intimate. With PCM tracks, you can turn on volume levelling to minimise the effect somewhat in desktop players and some portable players, including some music apps on phones.

The CL750 has a clearer presentation, no veil at all here, and a taller and wider stage. Treble is a bit more complete sounding. The s500i sounds like it is giving you an emphasis on the metal strike and not enough on the tone of metallic treble instruments. More of the tone comes through on the CL750. Bass is also more present.

It’s quite amazing going back to an under $50 headphone that you loved after more than a year and a ton of additional headphone experience. The RHA s500i is good at it’s price, but there are more competitive headphones, albeit without it’s build quality. At $100 to $150 you hit the sweet spot for IEM value. There are too many good options, including the RHA CL750.

Specifications

Specifications
List Price £99
Drivers CL Dynamic
Impedance 150Ω
Sensitivity 89dB
Frequency Response 16Hz – 45kHz
Rated/Max Power 10/50mW
Cables 1.35m double-twisted OFC
Accessories Carrying case, stainless steel eartip holder, 3 pairs Comply (S/M/L), 6 pairs single flange silicone tips (S/M/L), 2 pairs double flange silicone tips (M/L), clothing clip
Weight 35g
Warranty 3 years

Conclusions

The RHA CL750 has a pleasing balanced signature with good performance across the frequency spectrum. It doesn’t have the biggest stage or the most detail, but it is engaging and a lovely listen given sufficient power. The build quality is to RHA’s ridiculously good standard. These things are built like a brick house. Mighty mighty. The IEMs are comfortable and come hard-wired with an excellent copper cable. The cable and the headphone are wonderfully ergonomic. If you have a DAP with decent output levels and are hunting for a clear, nicely balanced driver with stellar build quality and ergonomics. At £99, I don’t hesitate to recommend the RHA CL750 and think they are quite a bargain.

18 thoughts on “RHA CL750: excellent value, assuming you have a decent amp on your portable gear

Add yours

      1. Thank you.
        By the way, since you just got it i can tell you for sure than any headphone with low impedance 50 ohms with no success.
        There are tens of threads out there with people asking the same question and untill now no final answer was found.
        These RHA CL750 look like a good option but the low sensitivity and your review made me doubt.
        I will wait for your feedback once you have tested them and in the meanwhile if you have any idea about an IEM with high impedance, good built quality, which sounds reasonably good, i am more than happy to hear it. (Max Budget around 200 euros)

        Once again thank you

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      2. I’ve done my check. The LG V30 does all right with the CL750, but it doesn’t extract the full body of bass instruments. When comparing between the Questyle QP2R and the LG V30 the Questyle had more fullsome satisfying bass on Macy Gray – Annabelle. Both do an excellent job in mids and treble, but to get that bass to fully come out, a little more juice is necessary. The bass doesn’t sound terrible, but it doesn’t shine, and Annabelle is a track where bass should shine. The stand-up bass is a standout in the track.

        With regards to performance of low resistance headphones, I too do not like the automated gain settings. I’d like to select my gain on the LG V30. I’ve found, though, that easy to drive IEMs do just fine on it. If you need more power, there is a trick that can be deployed to solve the gain issue, get a little 3.5mm extension (6″ or less) and plug that in first. This will trick the V30 into high gain mode. Another way to perform this trick is to disconnect your detachable cable from the earpieces, and plug the cable in first. Then add the earpieces.

        There’s a whole world of good stuff out there for under €200. I have to know more about what you like before considering making recommendations for you. I can tell you what I like, but that doesn’t mean you’ll feel the same. I’m liking the Advanced GT3 quite a bit right now, but it does sound better with the high gain trick. They are $199 plus shipping, so might not fit your budget. I haven’t listened to a ton of stuff in the price bracket, so grains of salt and all that.

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      3. Hi, thank you for sharing your thoughts. I guess the 750 are not for me then. I am already using a 3,5 extension to trick the phone into aux mode but it is not very comfortable to carry around a dongle and doing the whole process everytime. I would prefer to just plug them in and thats it. Regarding some IEM with low impedence consider that if the file is not Flac or Wav or a very good mp3 they sound very low even at max volume. I believe that due to some regulations the models we received here in Europe are different from those in the States when it comes to volume output. To make it short i have to find an IEM or even an Earbud with high impedance (70-150?!) . I have just ordered a pair of VE Monk Plus (64ohms) from the UK just to see how they sound and in case i could upgrade to the Asura (150ohms). Another option could be the Yuin P1 but reviews are mixed and they are not easy to find here in the EU. Regarding IEMs i have searched for a comfortable, well built, balanced pair everywhere without success, aside from the Soundmagic E80 which are not for me. If i had to describe the sound i am looking for i would say well balanced with enough bass (only when needed) and a remarkable soundstage. Easy right? 🙂

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      4. I am in the EU (for a little bit longer). My V30 is an EU model. If you aren’t getting enough volume from stuff you might be listening too loud. I’d try to acclimate to a bit quieter if you like your hearing. I’m accused of loud listening by my older friends, but I’ve measured my levels with an SPL meter. Sometimes with DSD or quiet 80s CDs (Rumours, Brothers in Arms), I have to increase volume, but almost never to max with anything. I’ve listened with loads of 32ohm and under IEMs and they sound fine to me. The Monk+ does go to near max volume for me. It’s demanding.

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      5. I really don’t know, you might be right and i should get used to lower volume but if you google it you will find out that many people reported the same problem, it might be the quality of the files we are listening to?! Maybe.. The thing is that the V30 when in High impedance mode does not only sound too loud, it gets richer and more detailed.. it’s like the dynamic range increase as well.
        I have tried different iems with low impedance with it and something is just not right (aside from the low volume).
        I just found a pair of Klipsch x10i for a good price, they are well above 50ohms and i guess i will give them a try (even if i have never tried a pair of Klipsch so i dont know what to expect). Well i hope this conversation can help others as well to find a solution.
        Thank you for your time, i do appreciate. Greetings from Italy.

        Liked by 1 person

      6. High impedance mode does sound more dynamic, but this can often be volume related. Loudness=dynamics. I haven’t tested with volume matching. It’s worth getting a cheap SPL solution if you really want to know what you listen at. Hearing is precious, SPL meters are inexpensive.

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      7. I ended up getting a pair of Pinnacle P1, 50ohms, they trigger the high impedance mode. I’m quite happy with them and with the volume, now I normally listen to music at 55 to 65 depending on the environment (V30). Getting an SPL could be a good idea.

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      8. I’ve got the Massdrop version, Pinnacle PX. That version is a little less, but not as nice a package. Might be why the P1 were €125.

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      9. Here in Italy is all about Shure, Sennhaiser and Bose, other brands do not get much visibility so sometimes you can get some good discount.

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      10. MEE Pinnacle PX (Massdrop clone of Pinnacle P1) volume tests on the LG V30. With my standard white noise, 51 is 78.3dB, which is my listening level; 55 is 80dB and 65 is 86dB. If I throw Perturbator – Perturbator’s Theme (off Dangerous Days) (probably one of the loudest tracks I own), 65 volume on the V30 is over 100dB, usually about 102dB to 103dB. That isn’t safe. If I turn down to 55, I get 95dB, still unsafe. To get to 78.3, my listening level, I have to all the way to 30 on the volume. Trying the other extreme, Fleetwood Mac – Dreams is recorded super quiet so 55 volume is safe across the board (between 68 and 84dB including peaks). At 65 volume on the v30, the dB range is between 74 and 91dB. I’d wager that there is a good chance your listening levels are on the high side if you are listening to anything but 1980s mastered CD rips, assuming that you aren’t using volume leveling in your playback software. Be careful out there. With regards to music, format doesn’t determine how loud the recording is, with the exception of DSD (DSD is quieter, in general, and can’t be leveled by volume leveling software). The loudness of the master determines volume. Perturbator’s Theme is 24/48 FLAC, but has almost no dynamic range. If I make an MP3 of it, it will still be roughly the same loudness.

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      11. I have downloaded a version of Children-Robert Miles from YouTube, converted into a mp3, medium quality and at 75 the volume is barely fine (even if I couldn’t say how many Db).
        A few days after I have found the same version but next to the song name there was written “24 bit Flac”, so I took my chance and converted into a Flac file. At 55 was already a bit too loud.

        I am not an expert but in my experience the bitrate made a big difference (at least with the V30).

        Regarding your measurements I probably should try and do the same even though honestly I don’t think I listen to music that loud, to be on the safe side Db should be between 75 and 85 and I believe I’m in that range (not considering some peeks). If I bring the volume to 30 the music becomes a mere background.

        Could it be that you’re files are recorded differently so they are naturally louder?

        If you have time and want to make an experiment search for “children” from Robert Miles (not flac version) on YouTube, convert it into an mp3 and play it with the V30 using your PX and see how many Db they generate at 55..

        One more thing, are you sure your PX play exactly like the P1? There might be some difference, sensitivity perhaps or something else that effect the db they generate.

        I tell you something else.
        Before getting the pinnacle I used to use an additional cable with one of those volume control wheel to trick the phone into aux mode in order to get more power / volume and it used to work perfectly. (I had a pair of iems 32ohm).

        Out of curiosity I have tried to do the same with the pinnacle, connecting the cable to the phone first and the the P1 to the cable and guess what, no much power and very low volume. It is like if the V30 recognized the high impedance of the P1 connected to the cable and limited the output on purpose.

        Not sure if it does make sense to you but you can try and do the same and see what happens.

                

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