Kevin Hunt: Earphone value, via Glasgow, from RHA

The SA950i reproduced Johnson's bass lines more faithfully than the other RHA earphones and the Grado iGi. These would be my choice among the RHAs for long-term listening if they were comfortable enough for long-term listening. On another head, perhaps, these might be the best value in this group.

Bargain rating: 6 out of 10

MA450i earphones

Price: $49.95.

Inline remote/microphone: Yes.

Construction: Machined-aluminum earpieces, 10 mm Mylar drivers, fabric-braided cable.

Comes with: Seven sets of dual-density silicone tips, gold-plated 31/2 mm connector, carry case.

Compatibility: Apple devices only for the inline remote and microphone.

Comment: Two reasons the MA450i is not your typical $50 earphones: the machined-aluminum earpieces and RHA's three-year warranty. (The MA150, with a one-year warranty, is the only product in this roundup with a shorter warranty.)

These were the favorites of this listener because of the overall sound, construction quality and superb fit — the better the seal with the ear, the better the sound, particularly the lower frequencies. Where the MA150's disproportionate bass distracted during playback of sample songs from Swiss-Albania jazz singer Elina Duni's "Matane Malit" and the Marc Johnson-Eliane Elias collaboration "Swept Away," both on ECM Records, the MA450i presented a more coherent, realistic soundstage. This is where the money and materials matter.

The MA450i still lacks some of the "air" in the higher frequencies available in slightly more expensive earphones like the $89 Grado iGi.

Bargain rating: 7 out of 10

khunt@tribune.com

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