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RBH Sound EP1 Introduction

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RBH EM1 Back CompI’m not a fan of earphones.  Personally, I don’t like sticking anything in my ears unless they are made of foam to protect my ears from loud concert events or keep me isolated from my snoring spouse.  But, when Chief Engineer Shane Rich from RBH Sound paid me a visit to help install their new super Status Acoustics 8T towers for review, he handed me a little black box marked EP1 and asked me to check them out.  Figuring it was some sort of esoteric tweak, I opened it with reservation only to find RBH branded earphones.  Really?!? I thought to myself, do we need more earphones on the market?  Shane claimed these were a little different and knowing the RBH reputation, I decided to give them a listen.  Is there really room in the market for another earphone manufacturer?   Let’s find out.

Design Overview

The RBH EP1’s come housed in a black cardboard box with a magnetic opening flap.  They have a foam insert to rest the drivers in and a carrying pouch to store the extra earbuds or to stow the earphones when traveling.  They come with four pairs of ear cushions. Three of the four pairs are silicon type of various sizes (small, medium and large) and the 4th pair are foam from a company called Comply.  The foam tips provide the maximum isolation from outside noise and from my experience they also produce the most powerful bass response as well.  Extra pairs can be ordered from Complyfoam.com. 

RBH EP1 Package

RBH EP1 Magnetic Package

Most run of the mill earbuds use 9mm transducers or worse they use dual smaller drivers to make them two-way designs.  I’ve found two-way in-ear headphones to be at a disadvantage to good single driver designs since the smaller high frequency driver is often dynamically limited and by using two drivers in such a small enclosure, the bass response often suffers as well. 

While the RBH EP1’s look similar to every other earphone on the market, they are in fact a bit unique in one regard.  They have the largest transducers I’ve seen in earbuds before.  A pair of really great Denon’s I own use 11mm drivers.  The RBH’s use 13mm drivers. What does that mean?  Bass. Deep extended bass with the ability to play louder than its smaller competitors.  The EP1’s are also touted as noise isolating earphones providing up to 16dB of noise isolation when used with the foam tips.  This allows the end user to lower the noise floor from their surrounding environment to hear more of the subtle details of their music.

A close examination of the EP1 earphones reveals that they are constructed with premium materials such as an aluminum housing, gold plated jack connectors and a nifty cloth woven cord that is not only more flexible than the typical PVC cable, but also is far less prone to tangling.  They are rated at 16 ohms and 101 dB sensitivity.  The impedance is a bit lower than I’ve seen from typical earbuds but I didn’t have any issue driving them to satisfactory levels from my laptop or IOS devices. 

The user manual gives instruction on changing out the ear cushions which weren’t particularly helpful when I was trying to swap out the silicon ones.  Let me warn you, these are a bit tricky to change out.   I found the best way to accomplish this was to turn them inside out and squeeze the barrel while twisting it onto the earbud.  RBH actually made a YouTube video about this to illustrate it.

I feel obligated to point out the legal disclaimers that RBH dedicated a great deal of real estate in their tiny user manual.  They warn about prolonged exposure to >85 dB SPL, especially when using the foam tips which provide the best coupling mechanism directly to your ear drums.  They want you to listen for life so keep the volume level in check.  I found it mildly amusing that they suggested in the event if one of the silicon tips become lodged in your ear to immediately consult your Audiologist.  I will keep his number on hand any time I use these babies J   

Listening Tests

I used a variety of source equipment with the RBH EP1’s including the headphone output of my desktop computer DVD player, my iPhone 4 and the Micro preamp and DAC courtesy of Headroom.  I did most of my listening using CD’s and Pandora.com streaming music services with a paid subscription for commercial free higher resolution audio playback.

Phil Collins  Rush

Phil Collins I Don't Care Anymore (left); Rush Moving Pictures (right)

Peter Gabriel: Love Town

The opening bass track displayed nice deep extension that I typically don’t hear from in-ear headphones.  Peter’s voice came out clear and distinct.  The highs sounded a bit compressed when played through my iPhone but when I cued up the same track using my Ethernet connected PC and bypassed the internal dacs and preamp in favor of my Headphone DAC/Preamp, the sound greatly improved.  For casual listening, its fine to use a smartphone but anyone serious about fidelity should feed these babies the best quality source material and audio components possible.

Phil Collins: I Don’t Care Anymore

How could I do a listening test with Gabriel without including Collins in the mix?  After all they were old chaps back in the glorious days when super group Genesis was first formed.   The bass drum had great body and you could hear Collin’s masterful skill bouncing the sticks off the toms. 

Will Smith: Getting’ Jiggy Wit it

The EP1’s really showed off their bass prowess on this song.  With the Comply foam cushions, the experience was akin to one of those bass cars.  The silicon tips toned this down to a more balanced level while also tightening up the response.  Will’s voice was forward and clear and the stereophonic reverb effect added to the recording was clearly pronounced. 

Lee RitenourLee Ritenour: Overtime

Bass was warm and forward but a bit overpowering using the foam tips.  Switching out to the silicon tips, the bass was less pronounced and allowed me to focus more on Lee’s incredible guitar work.  The symbols were clear but didn’t have quite the airiness of extension as I’ve heard on the very best over the ear headphones.  This should come as no surprise however as in-ear headphones are ALWAYS at a disadvantage to quality over the ear types.  You’re trading ultimate sound quality for portability and convenience, but RBH managed this feat better than most, if not all, competitor in-ear headphones I’ve listened too.

Bob Marley: Jammin

Man if you’re body doesn’t get moving to this Bob Marley classic you need your pulse checked.  I loved the female supporting vocals overlaid over Bob’s voice.  One thing that always draws me to Bob Marley music is the bass.  The RBH EP1’s didn’t disappoint here.

Celia Cruz: La Vida Es Un Carnaval

This is a classic among Latin folks and I really dig this tune.  Celia has a distinct alto, almost masculine tenor voice that just draws you in.  The constant trumpet hook in this song really captivates you and the percussive work is just fabulous.  It’s no wonder Celia Cruz was one of the premier salsa artists of the 20th century and worked closely with legends like Tito Puente. She rocked!

Rush: Subdivisions

My all time favorite Rush tune, I simply can’t help but play air drums to this song when I hear it.  I also typically run to my digital piano shortly afterwards to play the wonderful keyboard track that Geddy conjured up for this masterpiece.  The RBH EP1’s gave me a convincingly enveloping experience with this song.

Emerson, Lake & Palmer: Pirates

Easily one of my all time favorite progressive rock songs, Pirates is epic.  From the very beginning of this tune, you realize you’re in for a treat with one of the world’s finest keyboard players of all time.  Emerson’s ability to combine signature electronic synthesizers blended with piano and a full orchestra is just mind boggling.  I would have loved to experience this song live back in their hay day but I was still crawling in diapers at the time.  Greg’s voice came through with great clarity though not as full bodied as I’ve heard on my reference Sennheiser over-the-ear headphones.  For songs with somewhat anemic bass like this one, the Comply foam cushions worked better from my experience by yielding a much needed tonal shift to the lower spectrum.

 

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Recent Forum Posts:

jp_over posts on May 04, 2013 10:21
Kew - I think I'll always have a spot in my bag for “on ear” headphones that cancel noise. However, now that I have a pair of in-ear noise isolating earphones that are comfortable, these might just turn out to be a final solution. Here's that other thread for any who are curious: http://forums.audioholics.com/forums/headphones-earphones/84760-bose%AE-quietcomfort%AE-15-acoustic-noise-cancelling%AE-headphones.html
KEW posts on May 04, 2013 10:07
jp_over, post: 967025
OK - finally got the EP1s in the mail. Excellent product!

Very accurate and articulate. Dialogue is clear. Bass is well defined and plays low with authority. Here's the surprise, I typically despise in-ear phones and find them very uncomfortable after any length of time. With the Comply T400 ‘medium’ earphone tips installed (shipped with the EP1s) these are very comfortable.

Further, the noise isolation is so good I have to leave at least one half way out so I can hear if we have “incoming”. Overall, excellent product and the sound quality/accuracy puts my Audio Technica ANC7b headphones to shame which are currently being shipped back to AT since one side is cutting out. Don't get me wrong, the ATs are a good product that I'll keep but they're just not as accurate (especially in the lower frequencies) as the EP1s.

Caveat: My laptop requires about 60% volume to really get them rocking. So, they're not as sensitive as other in-ear headphones I've had (a set of Ultimate Ears that I bought in 2009 - I think the UE 1 / $99).

So, will these work as a final solution?
For the benefit of readers who did not see your other thread, you felt you needed noise cancelling and these noise insulating were a stop-gap measure.
jp_over posts on May 04, 2013 09:35
jp_over, post: 959107
I've ordered a pair of the EP1s and should receive them in about 2 weeks. Can't wait to get them as these will be the highest end “in-ear” phones that I've tried. Ah, the waiting game!

OK - finally got the EP1s in the mail. Excellent product!

Very accurate and articulate. Dialogue is clear. Bass is well defined and plays low with authority. Here's the surprise, I typically despise in-ear phones and find them very uncomfortable after any length of time. With the Comply T400 ‘medium’ earphone tips installed (shipped with the EP1s) these are very comfortable.

Further, the noise isolation is so good I have to leave at least one half way out so I can hear if we have “incoming”. Overall, excellent product and the sound quality/accuracy puts my Audio Technica ANC7b headphones to shame which are currently being shipped back to AT since one side is cutting out. Don't get me wrong, the ATs are a good product that I'll keep but they're just not as accurate (especially in the lower frequencies) as the EP1s.

Caveats: My laptop requires about 60% volume to really get them rocking. So, they're not as sensitive as other in-ear headphones I've had (a set of Ultimate Ears that I bought in 2009 - I think the UE 1 / $99). Also, I'd personally prefer a right angle plug.
jp_over posts on March 26, 2013 02:06
I've ordered a pair of the EP1s and should receive them in about 2 weeks. Can't wait to get them as these will be the highest end “in-ear” phones that I've tried. Ah, the waiting game!
GranteedEV posts on August 26, 2012 20:06
I'd be interested in hearing how these RBHs compare to the JH Audio JH5s
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