Packaging and accessories
RHA CL2 comes with a really rich package. In the box there are six pairs of silicone tips, 2 pairs of double flange tips and 3 pairs of Comply Foam Tsx-400 tips; the latter are used for this review.
The included cables are a balanced Ag4x silver coated cable with 2.5 TRRS plug, an unbalanced OFC cable and a bluetooth AptX cable.
While both cable are very well made I found them too stiff and the memory wire around ears too thick, for this reason I prefered to use a 16core copper cable for daily usage.
The IEMs are really well made, their injection moulded ceramic housing gives them a really nice and premium look and their shape ensures a comfortable fit for pretty anyone.
Packaging and build quality is exactly what you’d expect from a high end IEM, nothing less.
- Driver: 10mm planar magnetic
- Impedance: 15 Ohm
- Sensitivity: 89 dB/mW
- Frequency range: 16 Hz – 45000 Hz
As the specs might suggest, those little iems requires a lot of current. The low impedance combined with the low sensitivity will make a lot of dap/amp struggle.
For my tests I used as a main source my modded Zishan DSD AK4497EQ DAP. I tried them too with an Lg V20 with Quad Dac and with the PowerDAC V2 for quick EQ.
The cable is a 16core copper cable which I find extremely comfortable. The ear tips are the medium sized Comply Foam included in the package, I usually cannot get a good isolation with silicone tips and this time is no exception.
I will split the analysis in tonality and technical abilities of the headphone. I usually give more importance to the technical aspects of an iem for a pretty obvious reason: an iem with tonality flaws can be fixed with a good quality EQ, an iem which is technically bad (low detail, muddy sound, bad separation and so on) cannot be fixed in any way.
I will include comparisons with the only other closed planar iem in the market: the Tin Hifi P1, and with a full size planar: the Hifiman HE-560.
Basses are extremely defined, with the right quantity and an astonishing quality. They do not bleed in mids and the amount of texture and detail is extremely high. I was a bit worried about sub-bass being a bit attenuated but I was wrong … I was SO wrong!
Don’t get me wrong, basses are not at bass-head levels, they are really neutral and refined.
VS. Tin Hifi P1: there’s not a lot to say here, P1s literally don’t have sub basses a have just a little of bass. To match the CL2 I need to give +8db on bass, but doing that the distortion becomes audible.
VS. HE-560: CL2s have a bit more quantity. The quality is pretty the same but CL2 have more punch.
Mids… have a little problem, there’s a peak between 2 and 4kHz. I’m a bit sensitive in this area but despite that the peak is there and it was intentional by RHA (like they declared on Head-Fi).
Tuning a planar drive is extremely difficult and if this peak was unintentional I would have totally understood that, but pushing mids so high intentionally is just a wasted opportunity to make e really tonality correct IEM. Of course, being a planar driver, you can pretty EQ the response how much you want but without EQ the female voices sounds too loud and intimate, drums sound uneven and not natural (snare and cymbals in particular) and in general everything start to sound wrong.
With EQ the guitar strings are so defined that you fill the instrument in front of you and everything sounds very natural. Both male and female voices are well rendered and you can easily fix the major flaw of this IEM, more on EQ later.
VS. Tin Hifi P1: tonality without EQ goes to the P1 which are very neutral in these frequencies. Quality CL2 are far superior.
VS. HE-560: Hifiman’s mids are way more correct in tonality and a little less veiled in quality. EQing the CL2 they become equal on tonality.
They are not bright, nor dark, just the right quantity. As a comparison they are brighter then Audeze’s (LCD-2) and darker than Tin P1. Useless to say, an extreme amount of detail. Really nothing to complain about.
VS. Tin Hifi P1: tonality of highs in the CL2 is far more correct and they are better rendered. The P1 have an absurd peak after 10kHz that needs heavy EQ (I use a low-pass filter to correct them, a notch filter in not enough!)
VS: Hifiman HE-560: Hifiman are brighter and they extend a bit more than CL2, but RHA are just behind them.
Soundstage is wider than the average IEM within its own limits. All instruments are well positioned and it is never claustrophobic. Stereo separation in on top.
VS P1: CL2 soundstage is a bit wider. But not by much since closed IEMs have limits in this parameter.
VS HE-560: open back vs IEM, nothing to add…
Layering and detail
Detail is astonishing. You can feel the instrument in front of you, you can feel the vibration of a cello strings and the hit of a stick on the snare drum like if they were in front of you. All the instrument are perfectly separated. You can feed them congested tracks and you’ll still be able to focus on every single instrument.
VS P1: P1 in compairson are extremely muddy, they lack attack in the sound, layering is pretty bad in comparison and details, while they are good for P1 price point, when you compare with the details rendered by the CL2 the difference is big. P1 are foggy, CL2 cristal clear.
VS HE-560: detail is absoulutely the same. Layering is a bit better on HE-560, mainly due to the difference in soundstage that helps to better position the instruments.
I won’t spend much time on this section for a single reason: you can’t sell a 1000$ IEM with a bluetooth cable that doesn’t support AptX-HD or LDAC.
The power delivery is unexpectedly good but listening a track through AptX is like listening to an MP3, the sounds is dryer and highs are less defined and more harsh.
What a missed opportunity …
Equalizing these in-ear is pretty simple since there is only a major flaw. I just bump up a little bit sub-basses and extreme highs but that’s for my personal preference. This is the EQ curve that I use:
- 32Hz, 0.96Q, +2.50dB [optional]
- 1705Hz, 1.41Q, +0.80dB
- 2622Hz, 1.89Q, -4.80dB
- 4176Hz, 2.9Q, -6.00dB
- 9380Hz, 1.56Q, +2.50dB [optional, use +0.50dB for neutral]
- Gain: -2.50dB with optional filters, -0.50dB without them.
With EQ these IEMs really shine and become a really end game. They are on the same level of full sized high end planars.
EQ is not only recommended but mandatory IMO to get the best performance.
I think a finally found a good substitute for my desktop setup when I’m not home. They are not equivalent but they come close and they can be easily my end game (for a while at least).
While the Tin P1 are an awesome bang for the buck at their price point (and I really think you need to go over 300$ to find something better) RHA CL2 plays in a totally different league, fighting with full size planars.
At the price I bought them they have an awesome value, on both eBay and Amazon warehouse the price oscillate between 380€ and 460€.
If you are willing to use EQ (I would use it on 4k HP too, a perfectly neutral HP has yet to be created!) don’t waste time and start looking for a good offer online. If you don’t want to EQ skip the RHA, but you are going to spend more to have the same amount of detail and texture that these IEMs can provide.