Pros: Price is the main factor; did great on mids and lows
Cons: Soundstage, recessed highs
SoundMAGIC ES18- Magic Sound, Magic Price
In this world, there are people who are willing to spend a lot to make sure they enjoy the incredible details and natural vocals drove by their high-end audio equipments. On the other hand, there are also people who just want to listen to music with a decent earphone that cost affordably. No doubt, the SoundMAGIC ES18 falls on this category.
First of all, I would like to thank Li Yan for providing a sample of SoundMAGIC ES18. It is my 2nd SoundMAGIC IEM since I broke my PL11. If you guys notice, the SoundMAGIC company did a great job on their IEMs; the PL11, PL30 and the PL50, are the big three of SoundMAGIC that won them bunch of awards and recommendation from Audiophiles. And now, they came up with their brand new model, ES18, so let's see if it's standard is up to their 'brothers' one.
Image of the SoundMAGIC ES18
The SoundMAGIC ES18 makes a bold statement about making great sound affordable. Thanks to its upgraded 10mm Neodymium drivers and careful sound chamber tuning, the ES18 has a dynamic and refined sound signature that compares favorably to headphones many times its cost. The ES18 exhibits excellent accuracy and strong bass performance, delivering a deliciously full bodied listening experience.
The ES18 is well made with a bonded plastic housing, extended flexible strain relief, and tangle-free cord terminated with a right angle gold plated 3.5mm jack. It is available in three exciting colors of red, green, and orange, and comes with a storage pouch and three pairs of silicone ear tips in small, medium and large sizes.
Transducers: Dynamic 10mm Neodymium Driver
Frequency range: 15Hz～22KHz
DC resistance: 16Ω (±10%)
Sensitivity: 100dB/mW @ 1KHz (±2dB)
Cable length: 1.2m (3.5ft)
Connector: 3.5mm gold plated plug
After unboxing the small box of ES18 madly (over-excited), I found out that the ES18 came with a rather large (which I believe can insert two RoCoo P and an ES18 at the same time) black synthetic leather pouch with drawstrings. Next it has the silicon eartips of different sizes provided (S/M/L pair). However, I felt that the smallest size fitted me well and isolated most of the outside noise, so I decided to use the smallest pair of Silicon tips throughout this review. (ps. Tips may change the sound you listen). And lastly, I have to always press the IEM into my ear as time passes to make sure it stuck nicely in my ear canal and thus to maximize isolation. My advice, choose a pair of eartip that suit the best of you.
The first thing that popped out in my mind when I held the ES18 in my hand was the word 'cheap'. The housing is made of plastic and nothing is special about the build quality. Design is just basic and since I got the red/black version, it does look a bit like the Monster Beats Tour if I place it far from me. Well, look is not so important after all, isn't it? However, I guess I have really underestimated it. I used it as my jogging rig and after withstanding all my sweats and impacts, it still serve me well. Loyalty IEM :)
I was shocked when I saw some people claimed that it delivers HI-FI standard sounds. And this was the reason why I was so eager to try them out until a point where I unbox it like a mad person. Initial expression was just so-so. However, after 50 hours of burning in, I do hear some significant improvement in ES18.
The SoundMAGIC ES18 is actually a dynamic IEM. It delivers sweet and well balanced sound. It is fast, it is smooth, it is detailed. Thus, I believe this IEM will be working great on pop and rock music.
Lows- The lows/bass of ES18 is well-controlled though at optimum level. Neither too much nor too shy. It feels as if it will always be there when it is needed to be. However, in some songs, I do notice that the bass covers/affects the vocal, making the whole song muddy.
Mids- The sound signature of ES18 is more to upper-mid in my opinion. Full and smooth.
High- Since the ES18 is a low and mid-focused IEM, the high of this IEM tends to be slightly recessed. And this leads to the lack of clarity. The good thing about this is you will not hear any piercing, harshness and maybe slight sparkling from this IEM.
Soundstage- Soundstage is just about average. Separation and positioning is not obvious.
Conclusion- Do you believe in the quote "You get what you pay for" ? In my opinion, this may be applicable in some cases in ES18. 1. To cut down the cost in order to offer a better price for the casual audiophiles, SoundMAGIC has to sacrifice the build quality and use lower quality cable which produces a lot of unwanted noises when you walk etc. Clip is not provided on ES18. 2. At an asking price of around $15, the ES18 is producing the sound quality of IEMs which are a few times more expensive than it. No doubt, it is following the footstep of the big three of SoundMAGIC.
So, do you think you get what you pay for, or even more? Your call.