Roland RH-iE3 in-ear headphones [review]

January 13, 2011 Off By Chris Hinton

What do you look for in a set of in-ear headphones? I look for solid construction, excellent sound, and it doesn’t hurt if they look good as well. The RH-iE3 is Roland‘s flagship in-ear headphone, designed and tuned for use with Roland’s own range of equipment but, they say, also an excellent option for listening to music on the media player of your choice. So, do they measure up? Let’s find out.
The first impression of the RH-iE3s was very good. As I took everything out of the box I was pleased to see a hard storage case, extra rubber earpieces (for different-sized ear holes!), a mini to 1/4 inch plug adapter, extension cable, and the earphones themselves. It had all been well packed, with a foam board to ensure everything stayed in place and was well protected in transit. So far, so very good.
All of the included items are of good quality construction, and the earphones have an aluminium body that gives them a feeling that they’ll take plenty of punishment without breaking. When I first saw the iE3s I did think they looked rather large but they are much less noticeable once they’re in – especially when you consider that a certain popular tech company likes to provide white earphones that stand out a mile. In fact, the metal body does more than look unobtrusive… I think it looks good. Of course, that’s a subjective opinion, but I really wouldn’t feel comfortable if they were ludicrously ugly or “in your face”.
Fashion concerns dealt with, then, how do the RH-iE3s actually sound? In a word – awesome. The Roland website says the iE3s have “advanced drivers deliver[ing] deeper bass, extended treble, and higher fidelity”. The bass is astonishing, dealing just as well with the lower range of a piece of classical music as with a thumping bass line. The upper frequencies have a lovely rich tone to them that makes listening to my music an absolute joy.
The included rubber earpieces come in three sizes and, once you have the right ones attached, do a good job of plugging your ears and blocking external sound. They aren’t quite as effective as active noise-cancelling headphones, but on the occasions I used them while out walking the music stayed crisp and clear even when walking alongside a busy road. They’re comfortable, too, holding the RH-iE3s in place without irritation.
So, what we have here is a set of well constructed, decent-looking, awesome sounding, comfortable in-ear headphones. I bet you’re thinking what I’m thinking right now: that sounds great, but how much are they? They are listed on the Roland website at £132.76, an odd price that seems to be a result of the recent VAT change. Pricey? You bet, but a quick search of Amazon reveals a plethora of similarly placed (and more expensive) units from names like Shure and Sennheiser.
Ultimately, these are brilliant headphones for all the reasons listed above. If you’re in the market for some premium headphones to enhance your listening, these are well worth your time, and your money.
The Roland RH-iE3 earphones are available from Roland UK’s website.