RHA is one of many headphone manufacturers offering a focused true wireless earbuds proposition that consists of one premium pair with active noise-cancelling and a more affordable pair without it.
The company’s naming choices leave visitors to its website in no doubt as to which is which in its arsenal. The RHA TrueControl ANC we have on test here sit above the RHA TrueConnect 2, justifying their flagship status with not only noise-cancellation but also Bluetooth 5.0 with aptX connectivity, dedicated app support and an IPX4-rated level of water and sweat resistance that means they should survive water splashes.
The TrueControl ANC’s battery life of 20 hours – five hours from the buds, plus 15 hours from the charging case – isn’t superior to its sibling, though. That isn’t perhaps wholly surprising considering noise cancellation is rather battery-draining, but it is still somewhat disappointing in light of the competition. Noise-cancelling rivals, such as the Apple AirPods Pro, Sony WF-1000XM3 and Sennheiser Momentum True Wireless 2, all claim 24 hours or more.
We’re pleased to see fast charging support (14 minutes provides an hour of playback) as well as broad wireless charging compatibility on the menu. As is typical, a wireless charger isn’t provided, but out of the box the earbuds’ charging case can be replenished via the supplied USB-C cable.
Bluetooth version 5.0 with aptX
Battery life 20 hours (5 hours buds + 15 hours case)
Weight 8g (each)
The charging case reminds us of our time with the original RHA TrueConnect earbuds, which featured a similar case that we called “neat, but somewhat fiddly”. The aluminium case twists open to reveal the earbuds securely embedded into deep magnetic divots, but the slot only opens by a couple of finger-widths, and so it isn't always easy to pluck them out.
That said, there are a swathe of rival designs on the market that vary vastly in quality, and this makes us appreciate the rare premium quality of the TrueControl ANC case's solid build. It feels made to last and hardy enough to survive a tumble out of a hand, bag or pocket.
The earbuds have a matching air of quality about them too. They look and feel nicely finished, and we’ve no complaints with the responsive circular touchpad, which in the dedicated RHA Connect app can be set to skip tracks, adjust volume and cycle through noise-cancelling modes (on, off or ‘ambient’) with swipe forward/backward or tapping motions.
The app is also where you can adjust EQ, see battery levels and activate wear detection features – ‘auto-pause’ pauses music when an earbud is removed from your ear, while ‘auto-play’ resumes play when it is reinserted. Both work as promised during our test.
The buds join the likes of the Sony WF-1000XM3 as some of the bulkiest earbud designs out there, but that isn’t a reason to avoid them – in fact, they’re one of the most comfortable and secure-fitting we’ve come across.
They’re easy to lock in place without much force or twisting, in part thanks to a notch that easily nestles into your ears. And multiple sizes of silicone and memory foam tips ensure there’s something for everyone.
When in place, the TrueControl ANC make your ears feel a little full – you won’t end up forgetting they are in – but despite the size of the earbud housings they feel relatively lightweight. Not even a mild attempt at headbanging during Judas Priest’s Hell Patrol manages to dislodge them.
The RHA's sonic character plays into the hands of such a track: it’s big and full, warm and smooth, with an abundant low-end and rich mids that are able to get stuck into the meaty electric riffs and double-kick drumming. There’s a fair amount of detail in the mix, too.
Switch the noise-cancelling on and it doesn’t affect the sonics as much as we’ve heard with some other earbuds – all in all, it’s pretty satisfying. Their best efforts to reduce background TV noise and everyday road traffic are laudable, although as is to be expected from this kind of design they won’t cloak you in isolation to the extent that heavy traffic or engine noise is completely muted. You’re still likely to be disturbed when playing at low volume or mellow instrumental tracks, too.
The TrueControl ANC’s ‘ambient’ mode works adequately, amplifying your surroundings so you can conveniently hear conversations or announcements without having to remove the buds from your ears.
Our main issue with these RHAs is their inability to deliver the more mature aspects of sound as well as the best-in-class competition can. Compared with the slightly more affordable Sony WF-1000XM3, the TrueControl ANC lack the dynamic punch and rhythmic prowess to truly engage you in anything particularly musical. Dynamically, they’re fairly restrained, and the fact their rich balance doesn’t hugely favour treble doesn’t help them sound any less subdued either.
What treble there is lacks refinement, too, and this is highlighted when we play Soul Push’s Good Man. Whereas the grooves underpinning the track sound upbeat, crisp and open through the Sonys, the RHA's rendition isn’t as spirited and musically cohesive and is less interesting to listen to.
The RHA TrueControl ANC offer a comfortable listen – one that can be easily endured for hours without it grating. However, it’s not all that compelling, especially at lower volumes where they all too easily settle for offering background listening.
Despite their neat, comfortable earbud design and decent noise-cancelling, they need to offer more in the sound department at this premium price to merit a place on people’s shortlists.
- Sound 3
- Comfort 5
- Build 4
Read our Sony WF-1000XM3 review