Pros: Audiophile sound quality, Fantastic resolution, timbre and separation, Great accessories package, Out of this world price to performance ratio
Cons: Cable has a lot of spring and memory (controlled with chin slider)
At the time this review was written, the Soundmagic E80 in-ear monitor was on sale for $51.99 USD on Micca Store’s website. Here is a link to a listing of their product at the time of the review:
Reviewing headphones is a labor of love. To be completely honest, the better an earphone is, the easier it is to write a review. While many earphones fit into their respective price point in terms of build and sound quality, I am occasionally blessed with an opportunity to cover an earphone that reminds me of why I still live in the “budget-fi” world. Simply put, there are earphones that come in under the hundred dollar mark that set themselves apart from their competition, and give products that cost much more a run for their money. Today I have the opportunity to cover a real gem in the “budget-fi” realm, the Soundmagic E80 in-ear monitor.
A few years back, Soundmagic raised the bar on the market for in-ears. They released the E10, an in-ear monitor that put many much higher priced earphones to shame with their ergonomic design and phenomenal sound. Several other models were released, including one of my all time favorites, the E30 (still one of my favorites to date). Other notable products are their full size headphones (HP100, HP150, HP200), as well as the PL and ES series of IEMs. Here is a link to their official website:
When Soundmagic reached out to me to review their new E50 and E80 earphones, I was ecstatic. Not only was I curious to try a new earphone from them, I was already a fan having owned several of their products.
It is my pleasure today to present the new flagship of their Reference Series, the Soundmagic E80 in-ear monitor. It is an extraordinary earphone at a price that is almost too good to be true.
Note: I also reviewed the Soundmagic E50 in-ear monitor. Here is a link to the review for them:
I was given an opportunity to cover the E80 and E50 in exchange for my honest opinion and review. I am in no way affiliated with Soundmagic.
I AM NOT a numbers and graphs audiophile or sound engineer. Personal audio enthusiast? Absolutely! Headphone junkie? Possibly…
There’s something about quality DAPs, DACs, Amplifiers and Earphones that intrigues me, especially if they can be had for low prices. I will buy the $5 to $500 earphone that looks promising, in hopes that I will discover that one new gem that can compete with the big names in this industry. If you look at my Head-Fi profile you will see that I have purchased MANY different headphones and earphones, ranging from from dirt cheap to higher end products. For me, this hobby is more about getting great price to performance ratio from a product, and have a variety of different gears with varying builds and sound to mix and match. With personal audio gear, we tend to pay a lot of money for minor upgrades. One thing I’ve learned over the last few years is that just because a headphone has a higher price tag, it doesn’t mean that it has superior build and sound quality.
I’m always looking for great audio at a great price. I’m after headphones and IEMs that give me the “WOW” factor. I can appreciate different builds and sound signatures as long as they are ergonomic, and the sound is pleasing to the ear. It is my pleasure to share my experiences with audio products and make recommendations based gear I have owned and used.
The Package came in a black and white box much similar to their previous reference series models. The front of the box had a picture of the housings and the product name along with a few brief notes describing them. The back of the box had a clear cellophane coated cutout showing the actual housings, along with a list of the accessories in eight different languages.
*Transducers: 10mm dynamic with neodymium magnet
*Frequency Range: 15Hz~22KHz
*DC resistance: 64+-10%Ohms
*Maximum input power: 20mW
*Cable Length: 1.2m
*Connector: 3.5mm Stereo, 60 degree L-style plug, gold plated
*3 pairs silicone narrow bore tips (S,M,L)
*3 pairs silicone wide bore tips (S,M,L)
*1 pair silicone double flange tips (M)
*3 pairs Comply foam tips (S,M,L)
*Semi hard zipper carrying case
There are plenty of tips for just about everyone to get a secure fit and seal.
The E80 is a barrel shaped housing consisting of mostly metal. It has a short and slightly wider than normal nozzle. There is a venting hole on the bottom where the nozzle meets the housing. The back of the housing has a unique connection, using a rigid rubber backing that operates as the strain relief and leads to the cable. Everything is well built and very smartly designed. I have no complaints and find the design to be sleek and solid.
Cable, Y-Split, Cable Jack, Strain Reliefs
The cable is a shiny rubber coated wire that is the same material as the reference series cables of the later runs of the E10 and E30. One thing I wasn’t fond of was the amount of spring and memory of the cable. Its saving grace was a very useful chin slider that allowed me to negate the spring of the cable by snugging the cable into place under my chin or behind my neck. The Y-split had a rubber strain relief with a metal exterior that matched the rest of the cable and had the Soundmagic logo along with a specific serial number. The cable Jack was a sixty degree angled plug that is constructed of metal and gold plating and has a black rubber strain relief. The outside of the cable jack sported the E80 logo. Aside from the spring and memory of the cable (which is controlled by using the chin slider) everything is really well done.
Ergonomics, Fit and Microphonics
The E80 has a great fit. With the large selection of tips that come in the package it was easy to find a tip that seals well. The included chin slider made it easy to wear them under or over the ear. They were very comfortable and I had no issues wearing them for extended periods of time. They are one of the better fitting IEMs I’ve experienced.
My pair of E80 didn’t come a microphone or remote. I assume there will be a model that will feature this coming up.
Sound Review & Materials
I primarily did my demo with my usual gear. I used an LG-G3 with the latest firmware, and Sony Walkman F806/Cayin C5 amplifier for portable use. For desktop I used my Toshiba Satellite Laptop in combination with a HIFIMEDIY Sabre ES9023 USB DAC/Bravo Audio Ocean Tube amplifier with a Mullard 12AU7 tube for higher impedance, and a Fiio E18 USB DAC & Amplifier for lower impedance products. Both were run at 24 bit, 96000 Hz. I also tested them with other DAPs/DACs and amplifiers as well. I used Google Music downloaded in its highest download quality (320 KBPS) and I also streamed FLAC via Tidal streaming service. I make sure that any gear I tested has has enough time play time for me to be able to confidently describe their sound.
I used my usual same songs for testing gear:
“Limit to your love” by James Blake (bass speed, punch, response)
“Doin’ it Right” by Daft Punk (sub bass)
“Get lucky” by Daft Punk (bass to midrange transition resolution, male vocals)
“Madness” by Muse (soundstage, separation)
“Some nights” by Fun (soundstage and male vocals)
“The soundmaker” by Rodrigo y Gabriela (texture and imaging)
“Bassically” by Tei Shi (bass to midrange resolution, female vocals)
“Skinny Love” performed by Birdie (female vocals, acoustic playback)
“One” by Ed Sheeran (male vocals, acoustic playback)
“Outlands” from the Tron Legacy Soundtrack (symphonic presentation, imaging)
“Sultans of swing” by Dire Straits (detail, separation, balance)
“And Justic for All” by Metallica (driver distortion, treble response, rock playback)
“Ten thousand fists” by Disturbed (driver distortion, treble response, rock playback)
Note: Other tracks were used, but the listed songs were primarily used to asses and break down the gear’s response.
This quickly became a personal favorite in terms of sound. It is one of the most impressive midrange presentations I’ve heard in any earphone, whether it be full size cans or in-ear monitors. The sound is organic and lush, and you won’t feel like anything is missing. There are no outrageous spikes or dips. They play every genre or music well. They are easy to listen to for extended periods of time. It is truly a complete package in terms of sonic presentation.
Note: The E80 will work with a device like a cell phone and sound great, but they do call for more power than the average in-ear monitor. Its power requirements are somewhere along the lines of the Havi B3 Pro 1, maybe a touch less. I found a portable amplifier helped to get the best sound quality out of them. They sounded especially great with my Soundmagic A10 amplifier. However, most amplifiers should suffice.
Note: Tip selection plays a considerable part in how they sound. Narrow bore tips brings the bass and treble a little more forward as compared to the wider bore tips. Comply foam tips seemed to render the most balanced sound from bass to midrange, and smoothed out the treble a bit. Wide bore tips rendered a very lush midrange with plenty of bass response and treble presence and was my preferred tip, with Comply foam coming in a close second. I will report my impressions based on using the wide bore silicone tips in my sound review.
The bass on the E80 has no limit in terms of extension. It goes as low as you can hear and then some. It isn’t necessarily the tightest bass, but it has very nice presence and hits every note with ease. It does take a very small step back from the midrange, but not in a bad way by any means. It has punch that could be tighter, but it works really well and supports an astonishingly good midrange. I think the best way to describe it would be powerful, smooth, and not overbearing in any way. It works well with every genre of music.
I absolutely adore the midrange of the E80. It is lush with plenty of timbre and fabulous resolution. It is relatively balanced with a warm tilt. Vocals sound BEAUTIFUL with these! Male and female vocals sounded warm and natural. Midrange instruments could be felt as well as heard. I think the thing about them that is so special is their organic and sound that was able to also have an incredible amount of timbre at the same time. Separation of sounds is top notch. These sound very high end to my ears, and I don’t know if there will be anyone who can find any fault in the midrange of the E80.
Treble is universally well done so that anyone can enjoy it. It is as crisp as it can be without being harsh. There is great separation and detail. It is one of the better treble earphones I’ve heard at any price range. While many high end earphones have a spike to give listeners a sense of top end extension, the E80 takes a different approach. I think it is perfectly positioned so those who are sensitive to harsh treble can appreciate it, and those who are not will not find it lacking whatsoever.
Sound Stage and Imaging
The low end extension is awesome, giving it great sound stage depth. forward mid range and plenty of timbre and resolution, giving the listener a great sense of space. Treble is very natural and engaging, but doesn’t spike. Because of this a select few might find the top end to not be as extended as other earphones. Imaging is far better than average for a single dynamic driver earphone, but not as good as some other much higher priced IEMs I’ve heard. For its price point it is definitely one of, if not the best I’ve heard.
Dunu Titan ($100 to $130 USD on Many Sites)
“How does it compare to the Titan?” seems to be the big question these days. There’s no denying the Titan is great.
Both earphones have bass responses that could be a bit tighter. I personally prefer the bass tuning of the E80 because it is more extended into sub bass regions, and its extension is limitless. Doing an A-B comparison, the Titan mid bass really seems to jump out in front and make them seem a hair more unnatural to my ears. Midrange on the E80 has a more natural and organic presentation with more timbre. I prefer the midrange on the E80 over the Titan by a considerable margin. Let that be a testament to how good the E80 midrange is, because anyone who has heard the midrange of the Titan knows it is excellent. I give a slight edge to the Titan in terms of treble response thanks to its top end shimmer and detail, but it can also be sibilant and fatiguing with some genres of music. On a whole, I prefer the sound of the E80.
Build quality goes to the Titan. Their cloth covered cable is more flexible and has less spring and memory. Under the ear fit goes to the Titan, but over the ear fit goes to the E80, as swapping channels to accomplish this isn’t necessary. I consider the Accessories to be a tie. Both offer a very nice carrying case and great selections of tips.
Would I take the E80 over the Titan? I guess it comes down to preference. The more natural presentation and timbre makes the E80 a more enjoyable listen to my ears. Although the under ear fit of the Titan is superior, the fit of the E80 is more universal (I can go over the ear without swapping channels). The case is not as solid, but it is also less prone to scratches. Your mileage may vary, but if I had to choose between the two,I would pick the E80. However, both are fantastic and you can’t go wrong with either.
Did I mention the E80 are fifty to eighty dollars cheaper?
Soundmagic E50 ($45 USD on Micca Store)
The E50 is the other model released in the reference series. It is more V-shaped. Both offer similar resolution. This one is a matter of preference. If forward midrange isn’t your cup of tea and you listen to mostly modern genres like Pop or Rock music, and you aren’t sensitive to treble, the E50 might be a better tuning for your preference.
Accessories are almost identical between them, with the only exception being the two extra pairs of Comply foam tips included with the E80. The housing shapes are slightly different, but fitment was pretty much identical for me.
For my music preference, and two extra pairs of comply foam tips, I would spring the extra cash and get the E80. Better yet, you could buy both and still be at a price lower than the Titan, just saying...
The E80 was an epic listening experience, and ranks extremely high on my list of IEMs, ahead of the likes of the VSONIC GR07BE and Dunu DN1000. Their price to performance ratio is legendary, and their timbre rich midrange presentation is world class. If you want to experience some of the best “bang for your buck” earphones on the planet, I would hope that these are on the top of that list.
Thanks for reading and happy listening!