Similarly, there aren't too many features that really command much attention with the RP-HXD3W—they are very basic cans. They have a fairly bland Y-shaped cable that terminates in a similarly ubiquitous 1/8th inch plug. The cable is perfect for mobile use at 3.93 feet long, but it's probably not well-suited to use at the computer if you like to put your feet up or have a wheelie-chair.
Despite their plastic construction, they seem like they can take a few spills and keep working—there don't appear to be many likely points of breakage outside of the somewhat thin cable. Be warned: you can't repair the cable should it break, so take good care of it.
At first glance it really seems like these headphones are made for warmer climes or those looking to exercise with headphones that aren't in-ears. For example, I can see these getting used in a living room for someone who likes to start the day with NPR and yoga. With a silicone ear pad that holds your pinna firmly, you won't have to worry about excessive sweat or moisture giving you a rancid set of ear pads—you just wipe them down and you're all set.
However, that convenience comes at a price, as that material also does not let a whole lot of air in or out of your ears if you get a good seal. You may notice that heat and sweat don't really leave the ear cups if, and that can lead to a gross feeling after prolonged use during a run or extra-long gym session. In the short-term, however, it's actually quite comfortable, as it doesn't pinch your head and is generally cool to the touch when you first put them on.
Because these are consumer headphones, they will work well with smartphones (they have a simple yet effective remote)—you may or may not like the L-shaped plug, but that's a durability plus for something that's going to be jammed in your pocket quite often. Keep in mind that you can't replace the cable or customize these in any easy way, so be sure to take care of the cables—they might not be as tough as you think!
As with any set of entry-level headphones, there are going to be a few things you should be aware of. For starters, it's really tough to get the best fit possible due to the ear pads' design. While they are very helpful from a usability standpoint, it does make the fit a bit hard to get consistently good if you have larger ears. This creates issues for your audio that will be noticeable depending on how the fit is at that particular moment.
It shouldn't be surprising to you then when I tell you that these have some notable tradeoffs in the audio quality department. For example, a large range of underemphasis for certain sounds leads to audio that is slightly tinny. This is more or less okay for talk radio, but not so good for high-bitrate audio files.
Really though, these are entry-level headphones, and you'll get what you expect with these if that's what you're used to. Honestly, many people look for no-hassle headphones that work well enough, and for the price, these fit the bill—even if their audio isn't all that great.
If you're in the market for an inexpensive set of headphones that you can really put through the wringer in your low-impact exercise regimen (and you have issues with in-ears), these are worth a good, long look. The silicone ear pads and uncomplicated aesthetic make for a fairly robust design, despite the lack of additional durability features.
Sure, they're not great in the audio quality department, but they're very affordable, and their design lends itself well to mobile users looking to avoid many of the common pitfalls of using headphones in public. For example, you won't have to worry about stinky ear pads or difficult cleaning.
Should this sound like your set of headphones, you can hop online or head out to a retailer with $69.99 to grab them. You may be able to find them for less if you shop around a bit, though. Just be aware of their idiosyncrasies before you buy—you can check out all of the performance points one-by-one in the science page!
I do need to point out that the performance of the RP-HXD3Ws will vary greatly depending on the fit. Consequently, you may not get the same results that I did. Additionally, these are headphones that appear to attempt to fit a purpose that is not exactly to satisfy audiophiles, so this section is probably less important for its average buyer. For most people looking at picking these cans up, it's probably more important that they work, and not always how they work.
Probably my most consistent finding was that the closer the speaker element was to your ear canal, the better the performance was. If the headphones can be fit snugly to your ears with a sufficient amount of force, the tracking and frequency response improves, though not enough to make it compete with high-end cans or anything.
As you can see, there's a range of mid to high notes that are severely underemphasized, which means that the last two octaves of a piano will sound muffled in comparison to the rest of the music you put through these cans. What's important here is that many of the harmonic frequencies of the deeper notes are in this range as well, so it can leave the music sounding a bit tinny.
For those not in the know, when we hear a sound, a lot of what we hear isn't just the fundamental frequency we see, but the sum of all the harmonics as well. Because many of the harmonics of lower frequency sounds will be very quiet through these headphones, it leads to these notes sounding very differently than we would normally hear them, even if the fundamental shows up on the chart at a reasonable volume. However, this phenomenon is possible to explore through analysis of distortion.
While no one chart tells a complete story, we can see what's going on with the RP-HXD3W's odd sound by looking at the Total Harmonic Distortion (THD). See how the distortion grows exponentially the lower the frequency sound is? Some of that is due to low frequency sounds being notoriously difficult to reproduce, but it's also due in part to the underemphasis problem noted in the Frequency Response section leading to quiet harmonics. If you listen to these and wonder why your music sounds different and strange, it's because sound—that should be there—isn't.
Let's shift gears to Perceptual Harmonic Distortion (PHD), also described as added noise you can hear. You'll notice that there isn't really anything that peaks above the masking threshold, so there won't be any buzzing sounds that you can hear added to your music. That's not saying that there aren't audible issues, just that the problems are mostly missing harmonics and not added noise.
Because the distortion level is so high in the low frequencies, it's not terribly surprising that these headphones hit a 3% level of general THD fairly early on. If you were to crank your tunes to 107.079dB, the distortion would reach that theoretical limit for all frequencies and not just the low end.
You're not going to forget the world around you exists, but I was surprised that the RP-HXD3W was able to block out as much sound as it did with its not-completely-over-ear design. On average, you can expect about 8.3dB(SPL) of outside noise to be erased from your hearing, but it's not consistent (no headphones are).
You can see that these cans are best from 1kHz and up. Despite letting in a lot of low-frequency sound, they will gradually block out more and more noise from 2kHz and up, keeping anywhere from 20 and 38dB of unwanted sound from reaching your ear canal. It won't mute a crying baby for you, but it'll at least take the edge off.
Meet the testers
Staff Writer, Imaging@cthomas8888
A seasoned writer and professional photographer, Chris reviews cameras, headphones, smartphones, laptops, and lenses. Educated in Political Science and Linguistics, Chris can often be found building a robot army, snowboarding, or getting ink.See all of Chris Thomas's reviews
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