Never heard of RHA? Then it's time to get acquainted. This independent, Glasgow, Scotland-based company has released a string of highly regarded IEMs (in-ear monitors) in the past few years. Now, with the truly wireless TrueConnect ($169), RHA enters a space dominated by the likes of Apple and Samsung. Fortunately, in the TrueConnect, you get a compelling pair of earbuds that offer great audio quality and long battery life, all in a premium housing that you won't mind wearing in public.
While the TrueConnect buds lack certain features and struggle with treble-focused music, they still give the best wireless earbuds — the Jabra Elite 65t ($169) and Apple AirPods ($159) — a run for their money.
The TrueConnect buds are some of the most stylish truly wireless earbuds on the market, even with the stems that hang below their lollipop-shaped housings. You've seen this design before, but it looks far less offensive on the TrueConnect than on the AirPods.
The TrueConnect's stealthy matte-black finish gives the earbuds a sleek, understated appearance, and their warm, soft-touch rubberized material feels comfortable in the ear.
Unfortunately, the matte coating on these buds collects fingerprints, and their dark-gray right and left indicators and RHA logo are practically invisible. I had to hold the TrueConnect up to the light to see these hidden markings on the earbud's stem and large, circular side buttons. A red dot on the right earbud is the only helpful marker to differentiate the two buds.
The TrueConnect's charging case is sleek, sophisticated and functional. The U-shaped case doesn't have a lid; it instead opens by rotating around a center hinge. A gray aluminum frame borders the top and sides of the soft-touch black case. The same plush finish on the outside coats the interior of the case, where the earbuds dock. On the exterior are a USB-C port and three small LED battery-life indicators.
At 2.9 x 1.7 x 1 inches, the TrueConnect's charging case is longer than the cases for the Elite 65t (2.8 x 2 x 1 inches) and the AirPods (2.1 x 1.7 x 0.8 inches).
I didn't need to readjust the TrueConnect earbuds once I got a snug fit, at least, while I was stationary. I wore them at work from fully charged until they powered down, about 5 hours, and never felt any discomfort.
I couldn't maintain the same fit when I used the TrueConnect at the gym; the medium-sized rubber tips slid out once I worked up a sweat on the elliptical. One of the earbuds even popped out at one point, but I luckily plucked it from midair before it tumbled to the ground. Constantly readjusting the earbuds during my run was so frustrating that I removed them entirely and endured the pop music blasting in my gym. On the bright side, the TrueConnect earbuds are IPX5 sweat- and splash-resistant, so they can withstand a lengthy gym session at least.
I had fewer problems jamming and working out with the Jabra Elite 65t. Not only did these earbuds stay in my ears, but they were also so secure that I needed to readjust them only twice during a 30-minute cardio session.
In case the TrueConnect earbuds don't fit out of the box, RHA includes nine additional eartips at various shapes and sizes, including three pairs of Comply foam tips. If those don't work, then try inserting the TrueConnect earbuds at an angle and twist them so the stems go from a rear position to facing downward. I also suggest using the foam tips, but just remember to roll them between your fingers before you insert them into your ear canal.
At 0.5 ounces, the TrueConnect felt weightless in my ears, although competing earbuds, like the Apple AirPods (0.1 ounces) and Elite 65t (0.2 ounces), are even lighter. RHA ships the TrueConnect with an industry-leading three-year warranty.
Setup and Controls
Pairing the RHA TrueConnect to my OnePlus 6 smartphone was straightforward. To turn the earbuds on and initiate pairing, just press and hold the large circular button on either earbud for 5 seconds. A gong sound will indicate when they're discoverable. Then, open up your device's Bluetooth settings, select the RHA TrueConnect and follow on-screen prompts.
Once connected, I pressed both left and right buttons down for 1.5 seconds to wake up Google Assistant. After a brief pause, I was able to use voice commands to shuffle through one of my favorite albums: Death Cab for Cutie's "Transatlanticism." I then tapped the right earbud button once to pause "Tiny Vessels" when I saw my co-worker turn to speak to me. After our conversation, I pressed the right earbud again to continue with the music.
Once the album closed out, with the tender track "Lack of Color," I switched over to Thrice's "Beggars" album. I wasn't in the mood for the first few heavier songs, so I pressed on the left earbud twice to skip to the next track. When I needed to go back to the previous song, I pressed on the left earbud three times. The right earbud controls volume in the same manner, with two presses increasing volume and three lowering it.
The controls work well overall, but there's room for improvement. Since there aren't any voice guides, I had to remember each of these button controls, which took a couple of days and lots of frustrating trial and error. And while I appreciate tactile feedback, tapping and pressing the round buttons into my ears caused discomfort. For this reason, I prefer touch-capacitive controls, like those on the Samsung Gear IconX.
There's no accompanying app for the TrueConnect, which is something we've come to expect from premium, truly wireless earbuds. While not mandatory, it's nice to have a hub for monitoring battery life, customizing controls and fine-tuning audio via a digital equalizer.
The TrueConnect buds have a fairly neutral sound signature, though an emphasis in the lower frequencies gives these earbuds a fun, dynamic sound. Conversely, the treble ranges could use some smoothing out, as cymbal-heavy songs sound raspy. Also, the TrueConnect earbuds don't support LDAC or aptX codecs, the latest audio-compression technology found on some of the very best Bluetooth speakers and headphones.
It's crucial that you get a tight seal in your ear; otherwise, music will sound hollow and thin. Once you get that tight fit, the TrueConnect will block most ambient sounds. In fact, I could barely hear the screeching of a New York subway car during my morning commute to work.
When I listened to Frightened Rabbit's "State Hospital," the TrueConnect started out strong, punching my ears with a thick, rich bass. The late Scott Hutchison's gentle vocals pierced through the drums with plenty of detail and clarity. But things took a downward turn once the hi-hats surfaced and I heard a graininess with each cymbal clash.
High frequencies weren't as harsh on the AirPods, but Apple's wireless earbuds didn't sound as forward and engaging as the TrueConnect. Bass hits were weaker and felt more artificial on Apple's earbuds. The Elite 65t has the best sound of the three. The Elite 65t generally pump out rich, crisp sound, like that on the TrueConnect, but without the metallic treble.
I recorded similar results when I listened to Hozier's song "Movement." On the TrueConnect, the thumping bass line at the top of the song sounded like a heart was beating in my head. Hozier's smooth vocals were so rich that I when I closed my eyes, it felt like I was at a concern. But again, high notes sounded sharp, so you might want to avoid these buds if you're sensitive to sibilance. I, unfortunately, fall into that group and was forced to turn down the volume when Hozier belted, "It's not the song, it is the singin'" on "Nina Cried Power," the opening track of the new "Wasteland, Baby!" album.
While the TrueConnect brought me to a Hozier concert, the Elite 65t gave me VIP seats. Vocals sounded punchy and alive on the Jabras, while the pulsing drum rhythm gave new energy to the track. The AirPods didn't offer that same intimate, upfront listening experience, but they still sounded airy and clean.
All three headphones did a good job with Post Malone and Swae Lee's "Sunflower," but the TrueConnect and Elite 65t were the most fun to listen to, thanks to their slight bass bump.
Overall, the TrueConnect earbuds sound very good for most music, but songs with lots of cymbals or high-pitched vocals can be hard to listen to.
Battery Life and Bluetooth
RHA rates the TrueConnect's battery life at 5 hours, which is about what I got in everyday use.
I played a Frightened Rabbit radio station on Google Play Music at 11:15 a.m. When I checked back in at 1:15 pm, the earbuds were at 50%, according to the Bluetooth settings on my Android phone. The earbuds finally powered down at around 4:32 p.m., which adds up to a runtime of 5 hours and 17 minutes. It didn't take long to power these buds back up. The USB-C charging case uses fast charging to provide a 50% charge in just 15 minutes.
Speaking of which, the charging case carries an extra 20 hours of battery life, bringing the TrueConnect's total runtime up to 25 hours. Leading competitors offer around the same endurance. For example, the AirPods also last for 5 hours on a charge and gain another 24 hours from their floss-box-shaped charging case. The Elite 65t matches its rivals, with 5 hours of runtime, but its case can recharge the buds only twice, for a total of 15 hours of endurance.
The TrueConnect support Bluetooth 5.0, the latest connectivity standard, which uses Bluetooth Low Energy to improve battery life. While the wireless range is rated at a standard 33 feet, the TrueConnect held a stable connection when my smartphone was on the other side of my apartment, around 50 feet away. The TrueConnect stuttered slightly when there were multiple walls impeding the signal between the buds and my phone.
The stems on the bottom of these earbuds may look goofy, but they do a great job improving call quality. When I called my fiancee, she told me my voice sounded just as good, if not better through the TrueConnect compared to my smartphone's microphone. She could make out everything I said, even as she waited for her flight in a crowded LaGuardia Airport.
The earbuds also effectively isolated my voice. My fiancee said she couldn't hear any wind noise even though I sat inches away from a space heater in fan mode. There was a brief breeze as I positioned myself in front of the fan, but that sound was quickly swallowed as I settled in. Without an app, I had no way of monitoring my voice. Fortunately, my fiancee said I came in loud and clear.
The RHA TrueConnect earbuds make up for their underwhelming feature set with a premium design and reliable Bluetooth 5 connectivity. Battery life is also very good, at 5 hours plus an additional 20 hours provided by the earbud's sleek case. I was also impressed by the TrueConnect's audio quality, although a biting treble keeps them from rising above competitors.
If you want the best-sounding truly wireless earbuds on the market, then check out the Jabra Elite 65t. These earbuds get you comparable clarity and bass without the sharp high notes of the TrueConnect. Not only do the Elite 65t offer strong battery life, but they also come with a useful smartphone companion app.
Then there are the Apple AirPods, the most popular truly wireless earbuds on the market. While they don't sound quite as good as the TrueConnect, Apple's lightweight earbuds are extremely comfortable and offer a reliable connection.
Overall, if you're looking for premium, truly wireless earbuds with good sound quality and long battery life in a stylish package, then the TrueConnect buds are an excellent option.
Credit: Tom's Guide