Walk onto any subway platform and, aside from littered cement floors, you’ll see an egregious number of true wireless earbuds. When released, the RHA TrueConnect wasn’t shy about taking direct aim at Apple’s true wireless interpretation with competitive pricing and a similar, more mature design. RHA’s earbuds had dedicated nozzles far before Apple included them; let’s find out if the TrueConnect can still hold their own against the flurry of alternatives.
Editor’s note: this review was updated on February 10, 2020, to address a $20 price drop.
Who is the RHA TrueConnect for?
- Commuters. The convenience of true wireless earbuds isn’t up for debate and the TrueConnect earbuds combine a slick design and excellent passive isolation to make these a great companion for urban dwellers. That said, the design works extremely well to attenuate outside noise, so be sure to remain vigilant of your surroundings.
- 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 as 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 and 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 aids in the removal of the earbuds.
What makes a good set of true wireless earbuds?
Although the RHA TrueConnect design echoes that of the AirPods’, it has one thing the AirPods (2019) don’t: angled nozzles. 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 among the most handsome true wireless charging case, and inlaid on the front of it are three LEDs which indicate remaining battery levels.
The TrueConnect could be your next workout earbuds
Despite the lack of wing tips, 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. 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 earbuds maintain a stable fit and reliable connectivity, making them great for daily use.
Microphone quality is good as 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. It does, however, work well for daily use and could even slide for brief professional calls.
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 and even cheaper total wireless models, 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.
Connection quality and Bluetooth codec support
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 don’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 despite the seemingly aggressive bass response as depicted by the chart, it isn’t overwhelming or painful to listen to. If you prefer classical and vocal-centric music, the RHA TrueConnect may not be for you because bass notes easily mask midrange and treble notes. This can make it sound like something is “missing” from your music (see: auditory masking).
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. It’s worth taking a few moments to experiment with the provided ear tips: a proper fit is critical for optimal audio reproduction.
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.
How does the RHA TrueConnect compare to other premium true wireless earbuds?
The RHA TrueConnect has aged well with regards to aesthetics: the matte charcoal look is unlikely to go out of style anytime soon, but the lack of aptX and AAC support is a huge strike against the earbuds because even the cheapest alternatives provide support for one or both Bluetooth codecs. As of December 19, 2019, the earbuds have been significantly reduced in price all the way down to $138, making them a great alternative to the Apple AirPods Pro.
The AirPods Pro support AAC, integrate the company’s H1 chip for snappy connection quality and boast effective noise cancelling which is outperformed only by the Sony WF-1000XM3. Not only that, but you also retain the stemmed design and an official water-resistance rating (IPX4). Admittedly, the Apple AirPods Pro are notably more expensive than the RHA TrueConnect, but your dollar goes a lot further with Apple’s earbuds.
You can also go the opposite route and save quite a bit of cash by looking into the Anker Soundcore Liberty Air total wireless earbuds. These also have a stem-like appearance but unlike the RHA TrueConnect, they support AAC for high-quality, reliable streaming on iOS devices. Battery life is comparable and you’re saving ~$90 when picking the Liberty Air over RHA’s earbuds. Another solid pair of affordable, fashionable pair of true wireless earbuds are the 1More Stylish.
Should you buy the RHA TrueConnect?
Absolutely, the RHA TrueConnect is still a great pair of earbuds but they have their shortcomings like the lack of aptX support. 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 were 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. However, these now retail for just $138 pitting them against other more affordable options. If you appreciate sophistication, these now cheap earphones are for you.
Still looking? Check out the best true wireless earbuds