Pros: excellent value, overall good tonality, great bass
Cons: nothing really at this price, L/R marking not so visible when the light is not right
I am a 25 years old music enthusiast and audio gear lover. I am not saying audiophile for a reason,as that sounds both, too scientific and pretentious. I simply listen to music easily ~8 hours per day, and I want to enjoy it as much as possible. My first headphones were closed-back Sennheiser EH150 - very bassy and very uncomfortable headphones.
I was slowly upgrading my gear and currently I own BD T5p I. While I started as a pure bass-head I am able to enjoy the neutral headphones now too (with BD being one example). But I do listen to LOT of electronic music a lot - hip hop, dnb, techno, trip hop, downtempo - just to name a few, which means, that I need my bass to be good. I am not saying loud, but simply good - quality over quantity, that's for sure. In the past few years I have been extending my music horizons, and I am well into some other genres as well, including folk, indie rock, indie pop, blues, soul, and even little bit of metal.
Currently my main source equipment is FiiO X7. I do own lot of FLAC files, but by no means 100%, so there are still a plenty of MP3s playing around.
SoundMAGIC ES18 are my first IEMs ever, until now, I only owned closed-back over-ear/on-ear pairs.
There is one thing I value almost as much as the sound quality - and that is the *comfort*. I don't care much about the headphones aesthetics, design and accessories. Sound quality, comfort and cable are the three most important things I value about headphones, and whenever I stand in front of a purchase I don't like to make compromises in any of these three areas.
So - why would anybody even consider buying these? I mean - I paid 14 € for these, and let's be honest - this sounds plain suspicious.
At least it did for me. My motivation was very simple - my Beyerdynamic T5p were being serviced (actually, at the time of posting
this review, they still are ;)) and I simply needed temporary replacement and I didn't want to spend lot of money, since I knew that I'll have my BDs back in a 30 days tops.
So I came into my local audio shop and literally asked for the cheapest headphone they had - I was offered with these IEMs, and was told
that they actually don't sound that bad. Still, you know motivation for buying these, so you may have already guessed -
I've had absolutely zero expectations when purchasing these, and was not biased in any way.
So, I have bought these babies and plugged them right into my FiiO X7 /with AM1/. I have noticed two things right away:
- They were slightly harder to drive then my Beyerdynamic T5p (just by few volume levels away)
- The bass. It was everywhere. I didn't even know how to judge the sound quality.
My first track was some Drum&Bass and I guess that the transition from high-end headphones to cheaper IEMs can let you pretty confused. In fact, the bass was so all-over-the-place that I had to EQ this thing! This was my first time ever I was using the EQ!
Then, after 2-3 days of active listening, I decided to turn the EQ off and all of a sudden it all made sense. Just like a virgin remembers his first encounter forever, I will remember what it was to experience burn-in effect for the first time.
I don't really care whether this was a brain burn-in or actual burn-in but I know this for a fact:
- The bass has considerably calmed down, and became much more defined. So, now the bass has been tamed, let's discuss the sound quality.
The orange looks really beautiful with these
SoundMAGIC ES18 with accessories - S/M/L tips
These definitely can't be marked as neutral. Even after the bass has calmed down significantly after the burn-in, there is still slight emphasis on the low-end frequencies. The bass has nice impact, and extends really low. Initially, it was all about quantity. After burn-in the bass actually reaches pretty nice quality too. As a lover of electronic music I am very satisfied with this kind of bass. It is certainly not the most tight I have heard, but the combination of the impact and extension make it very good.
The mids and treble are just right for me - definitely not suitable for treble-heads, these aren't exactly bright. On the opposite , the overall sound has quite dark signature. The vocals sounds very ..well..how to put this - I have to say velvety, that's the impression I've got. The soundstage is mediocre as one would expect from low-cost IEMs, but the imaging is pretty decent which compensates a lot.
Still, when I listen to music I don't really focus individually on the bass, mids and the treble. I try to listen to the sound signature of the given headphones. And this one suits me really well - I find it very relaxing, with the slightly elevated low-end there is a nice "fun" factor to listening your music, and these are never fatiguing. It all sounds very natural to my ears.
To sum up : regarding the sound, there are couple of areas where these are average and couple of above average areas. And they truly excel in the low-end.
For 14€ I was expecting mediocre OR worse. Definitely not something which I am enjoying as this much!
When it comes to comfort it depends on a fit you will be able to get. These comes with three pair of tips. With smallest size, the comfort is best for me, but the isolation not so much - which means the bass is slightly leaking. With medium size, I have the average comfort (nothing hurts for the first couple of hours) - and the bass is just right. I haven't tried the largest tips, since they just seem too large :).
I also have to mention that the isolation is just great - these actually isolates better than *any* of my previous closed-back headphones! Of course, it also depends on what fit you will get with different tips.
The leakage is non existent as one would expect from IEMs.
Another thing - the cable. It's looks pretty cheap, but never had any problem with it so far. And trust me, I usually have problems with cable :). It never got tangled so far, the jack is L-shaped which I actually prefer by far.
Finally, on my list of priorities the last thing - design. These comes in different colors, I have chosen the orange one - because why not?
I love the minimalistic design,and find it very chic.
L/R marking is visible well only in correct light condition
14€ IEMs and 600€ DAP making a great combination
L-shaped jack looking durable
THE SOBERING UP
You have probably guessed right - I love these IEMs. Especially for the superb value they are offering for the price. Yes, if I compare them to the TOTL headphones I will have to say that these the soundstage is not very wide, lack of airiness, and they are not so detailed. But such comparison is simply not fair.
I have been completely ignoring this part of the market - I have actually never spent so little on any headphones for the past 10 years. I have also been secretly underestimating the IEMs in the past - this ends now, after this purchase. I am very surprised that there are manufacturers out there, who can offer so much, for so little money. I am not ashamed to say that I am enjoying both, SoundMAGIC ES18 for 14 € and Beyerdynamic T5p for couple of hundreds €. It's also a brilliant introduction to the world of IEMs for me - I keep asking myself - if 14€ IEMs can deliver so much, how must the Shure 846 sound?
I guess I will have to find out someday.. But until then, I'll stick with my SoundMAGIC ES18 and I am going to love it.
PS: Since this is my first review, I thought I'd give you some treat for reading it till the end - here, enjoy my rabbit (Johanka) wearing the SoundMAGIC ES18 - she enjoys them too.
Johanka, enjoying SoundMAGIC ES18 too