Scosche is one of the growing number of companies best known for iPod and iPhone accessories that have added headphones and earphones to their product lines. Near the top of the Scosche audio lineup is the $130 RH656 On Ear Headphones with TapLine Remote & Mic, a handsome, full-size, on-ear headphone. My test unit was the black version, the RH656MD, but the RH656 is also available in white as the RH656M.
On-ear (supraaural) headphones have earpieces that are smaller than over-ear (circumaural) headphones and sit on the ears rather than fitting all the way around them. They rarely block sound as effectively as over-ear headphones, thanks to the difficulty of getting a good seal around your ears with smaller earpads, so you tend to hear more ambient noise—and your music can often be heard by others nearby if the volume is high. On the other hand, many on-ear headphones are designed to be more portable than full-size headphones, and most are efficient enough to be used with the low-power headphone jacks on portable electronics. (For more information about different types of headphones, check out our headphones buying guide.)
The RH656 comes in an attractive, sturdy, multi-layered box, but not much is inside—no adapters, just a soft, drawstring pouch. The RH656 is itself sturdy, but it doesn’t fold up like some on-ear models. The design is attractive and gives the impression of being well-made, with a pleasing combination of textures and finishes set off with glossy bits and chrome accents. The padded, plastic headband ends with flat, metal brackets that hold the earpieces. Scosche says the foam earpads soften in response to body heat to better conform to your ears, but I didn’t detect any difference from other similar earpads.
The permanently attached cable connects to both earpieces, with the left and right earpieces indicated by markings inside the headband. The cables are thin, raising some concern about durability for users who are hard on equipment. The RH656 includes an inline microphone that sits on the cable at chin level, along with a separate Apple-style, three-button (volume up, play/pause, and volume down) inline remote a bit farther down the cable at chest level. The sound quality of the mic is good when using the RH656 for phone calls, but callers said my volume was a bit low. The buttons on the control module are large and easily identifiable by touch.
In terms of comfort, the RH656 is about average for headphones of this type. While more substantial than true lightweight/portable headphones, the RH656 never feels heavy, even after extended use. The RH656’s grip on the head is firm, enhancing sound isolation, but this tight fit may bother those with larger heads. The biggest comfort issue, though, is the headband. While there are no hidden hair-pullers to surprise you, the underside of the headband has two parallel ridges running the length of the headband that are visible as the “stitching” in the leather-like material. You can easily feel these ridges with your fingers, and after wearing the RH656 for a while, your head will feel them, too.
The first time you strap on the RH656 and crank up the volume, you’ll be impressed with its big sound. Keep listening, though, and you’ll come to realize that what at first seems like real bass is mostly a healthy boost of mid-bass frequencies; the lowest octave gives the RH656 some trouble, resulting in audible distortion, even at ordinary listening volume.
Similarly, the RH656’s good, lively midrange distracts you from the roll-off of high frequencies—these are not headphones for jazz fans who enjoy the detailed attack of drumsticks on cymbals. Like several similar headphones in this price range, the RH656 provides a full, exciting sound that emphasizes a “fun” experience over sonic accuracy. The headphones sound better when you crank them up, but whether from the higher volume or the sound quality itself, I found that listening fatigue set in rather quickly.
The RH656 is a good-looking set of headphones that offers big sound. That sound can be quite enjoyable if accuracy isn’t your highest priority, though I do caution you to test the headband to make sure it doesn’t rub you the wrong way. For shoppers who value accuracy or a brighter sound signature, however, there are better choices.