Earphones are made out of all sorts of materials, but it's not too often that you hear about metal injection-molded, stainless-steel ones, which is why RHA's T10i model piqued our interest. They cost $199.95, £149.95 UK or €179.95 EUR (they're not not available in Australia, but the US price translates to about AU$227.)
In case you've never heard of RHA, it's a Scottish headphone maker, though its products are produced in the Far East, as most headphones are these days.
RHA says the stainless-steel T10i model features a handmade dynamic driver (model 770.1) "engineered to reproduce all genres of music with high levels of accuracy and detail." It's also interesting to note that the earphones include a tuning filter system that allows for frequency response customization. It's a feature we've seen on a few in-ears in the past (the high-endcomes with acoustic filters), but you don't usually see it in a $200 headphone.
Everything about these seems well crafted -- from the housings to the reinforced, oxygen-free copper cable to the gold-plated plug -- and the sound is excellent, too. Factor in all the included accessories (RHA provides eartips in several different sizes and shapes along with a nice case), and you really feel like you're getting a lot of headphone for your money.
The only potential problem is the fit. The T10i earbuds are somewhat weighty for in-ears and the over-the-ear cable system won't appeal to everyone (I'm not a huge fan, while CNET audiophile Steve Guttenberg finds it more appealing).
I had a little trouble maintaining a tight seal, especially when I hit the streets and walked around with the earphones in. They were fairly comfortable, but I found myself regularly adjusting them in my ears. Also, the cords are fairly heavy, too. I was always aware the cord was there. Ideally, you want to forget you're wearing headphones.
Part of the cord weight is due to the inline remote. It's sleek and sturdy, but it's got a little heft to it. The remote works with iPhones, controlling music transport and volume; don't expect them to work with Android and Windows Phone devices. Note, though, that the RHA T10 is also available, sans remote, for $10 or £10 cheaper.
First impressions count for a lot and the T10i's were terrific on every count -- bass, midrange, treble, low distortion, dynamics, stereo imaging. And the earbuds' clarity made us feel closer to the music.