Planar magnetic headphones have caught on as some of the most aesthetically pleasing and accurate driver-types in the audiophile world. But I had usually only heard of them in the context of over-ear headphones. However, this week I got a chance to check out the RHA CL2 Planar in-ear headphones! They feature a 10 mm planar driver. But how do they sound? What is their sound signature like and is it worth the price of $899.99? Today, I’ll try to answer that question with this RHA CL2 Planar IEMs Review.
In the Box – RHA CL2 Planar IEMs Review
-RHA CL2 Planar in-ear headphones
-Balanced MMCX cable with 2.5 mm connector
-Unbalanced MMCX cable with 3.5 mm connector
-Bluetooth neckband-style cable
-USB-C charging cable
-Eartips (silicone, 2-flange, Comply foam — s, m, l)
Specifications – RHA CL2 Planar IEMs Review
-Driver: Planar magnetic
-Impedance: 15 ohms
-Sensitivity: 98 dB/mW
-Max/rated power: 2 / 10 mW
-Frequency range:15 Hz- 45 kHz
-Battery life of Bluetooth cable: 12 hours
-Range of Bluetooth connection: about 30 feet
Design – RHA CL2 Planar IEMs Review
The driver housings of the RHA CL2 Planar IEMs are medium sized. Their size and shape remind me a lot of the Shure SE Series. Made of zirconium ceramic, they’re smooth and round. As a result, they feel strong and durable to the touch and have a little bit of weight to them. Their design is simple. It features a monochromatic, glossy charcoal-grey with just the etching of the RHA logo on the outside. When I placed the earphones in the ears for the first time, they felt cold to the touch. And honestly, they didn’t fit great in my ears at first. I was using the silicone tips, so I decided to try the foam instead. The foam fit much better, and it was easy to get a good seal!
The RHA CL2 Planar in-ear headphones come with three cables: an unbalanced OFC cable with a 3.5 mm connector, a balanced silver-coated cable with a 2.5 mm connector, and a Bluetooth neckband-style cable. When I was first trying to test out the cables it was difficult to attach the cables to earpieces. I eventually found a good method, though, by give lots of pressure and twisting them slightly as I inserted the MMCX connectors into their ports. Once the cables were locked in place, they connections were remarkably sturdy!
Each cable had strong and malleable ear hooks built right into the cables. In both wired cables each channel was individually insulated and then braided, but individual wires within each channel were bundled together. Additionally, in each wired cable, the jacket was pretty thick which, despite a bit of bulkiness, actually made it pretty easy to manage. The Bluetooth cable has a neckband design, which I was thrilled about at first. However, over time it grew on me, and I found it pretty unobtrusive. It connected easily to my phone over Bluetooth, and seemed to be quite seamless.
For this listening test of the RHA CL2 Planar in-ear headphones, I listened with the foam tips because the silicone didn’t stay in my ears well. That said the silicone made the sound signature brighter, whereas the foam tampered it down a bit. Additionally, after different tests, I recommend amplifying these! They gained much more energy and clarity. With just my phone, they sounded loud enough, but they didn’t have as clear of a dynamic range and had a slower transient response. Additionally, the balanced cable sounds the best. It has a quicker transient response and a greater sense of precision in the low end. However, my test is with the unbalanced one because that’s how I imagine most people will be listening.
The low frequencies of the RHA CL2 Planar in-ear headphones are punchy, quick, and deep with nice extension and a solid pitch. As a result, when I was listening to Diamond Heart by Lady Gaga, the body of the kick drum felt full and moved a good amount of air, without being overly boosted or emphasized. Additionally, it seemed to have a nice, clear pitch and length. And on the same note, when the sub synth comes in, it contributes lots of nice low end energy without standing too far upfront or taking up space. It just created this sort of expansive foundation down below for the rest of the song to rest on.
The low-mids of the RHA CL2 Planar in-ear headphones feel a bit emphasized and sit more forward than the lows underneath them. Additionally, the high mids have emphasis. As a result, they provide detail to vocals and attacks of percussion, drums, and other transient instruments
For example, when I was listening to Carolina in My Mind, the bass guitar felt louder in the mix than usual. Additionally, the acoustic guitar midrange is less emphasized than the string noise, so it takes up less space but is also less thick. James Taylor’s vocal sits higher in the mix, along with the harmonica and slide guitar than they do usually. This midrange sound signature, while a little bit light on the middle mids, is an aesthetically pleasing response. However, I’d prefer the low-mid energy to be a little bit less boosted.
The high frequencies of the RHA CL2 Planar in-ear headphones are mellow and soft in general. They remain harmonically rich but are relatively quiet in the mix. As a result, things like cymbals, percussion, and other high-frequency-rich instruments are a bit lower in the mix.
For example, when I was listening to the song So Tender by Keith Jarrett, the cymbals were less forward than normal. As a result there was more extra space for the piano to sit forward with the upright bass. This worked wonderfully for this song and other jazz recordings. The cymbals did maintain their harmonic richness and you could really hear the differences in tone between the different cymbals. They also seemed to maintain a sense of extension which contributed nicely to their soundstage
The soundstage of the RHA is interesting! Its sense of depth goes deep but because of the quieter high frequency response, the sense of intimacy is somewhat limited. Additionally, its sense of width feels wide and accurate and the sense of height is pretty tall. I think this stems from the low frequency and high frequency extension. However, the tallness is less frequent than normal because the relative darkness of the sound signature.
For example, the sense of height in the song Matter of Time by Sharon Jones and the Dap Kings comes more so from the vocals and horns than the cymbals. The sense of depth is interesting because intimacy with this song comes more from the bass guitar than the vocal because the vocal air isn’t as present but the bass feels up front. And this bass contrasts really nicely with the far off keys and guitars. However, the horns, guitars, and keys provide a good sense of width and because of the quickness of the lows and high mids, they feel quite accurate.
Overall, the sound signature of the RHA CL-2 Planar earphones is both detailed and mellow. The highs are relaxed but the high mids and low mids both have really nice detail. I like these a lot with jazz recordings and older recordings in general. There’s a nice sense of warmth to it that contributes to the aesthetic pleasure of these types of recordings.