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SoundMAGIC PL30 Adjustable Bass Earphones

post #1 of 232
Thread Starter 
I grabbed a pair of these off ebay. I was curious after I saw them and I also thought the adjustable bass might be good for my AM/FM minidisc since the radio portion has no bass adjustment and my JVC's have a bit too much boom for my taste. After a bit of searching on Soundmagic and decided to give them a try.

They seem to be only available with ebay store/seller Dpmega as of right now. The price was right at about $40. They are $39.90 if you can grab them with one bid or 42.90 BIN. My experience was just fine with them. They offer one year warranty on the earphones, they communicated well with thank you for purchase and item shipped emails. Stated 7-9 day shipping; I received them on day eight. The package was marked as a gift even though I did not specifically request it.

Here they are.

The PL30 comes with an English/Chinese manual and warranty card, cord wrap, zipper case, cord clip, and 10 pairs of tips(9 pairs single flange, 1 pair bi-flange). The three different single flanged tips are colored gray, white and black. The earphones are gunmetal color not silver as on the box.

On-the-box specs and claims...

9mm drivers
102 +/-3dB/mw sensitivity
12ohm impedance
20-22K Freq. Resp.
20mw max input/2mw rated power

More details, Natural reproduction
Comfortable fit
Adjustable bass response
No microphonics with over the ear design
Up to -20dB Ambient noise rejection

My first impressions
Just an hour out of the box but I am pretty impressed.

Many earphones give me problems with fit/comfort in my right ear. These do not. The sound tube is angled both upwards and inwards. They are also comfy due to being the lightest and smallest of my current earphones(fx300 and SE420). Microphonics and bone conduction are almost non-existent(without clip and with regular flanges). With the over the ear design, clip, and cord draw microphonics should not be an issue.

The build quality is not tested yet. I'll see if they last. Other Chinese offerings have had some durability issues. I will have to report back. The design is well thought out though. Metal grill and Y-joint with rubber coated iphone compatible plug. The rubber red/blue strain reliefs/left right identifiers are cool. Don't really need the color ID on this one though since the shape allows for easy left/right ID; Tip inward(of course!) and the rectangular protrusion has to go toward they back of the head. You can ID them in the dark no problem. The cord draw fits snugly and stays where you leave it. The overall build is tight; smooth edges, no gaps or crooked parts and nothing is loose or flimsy.

The bass adjustment knob is also a nice design. No gaps and it clicks firmly to the marked settings. You have either clear bass or deep bass. There is no wobble or play in the knobs either. You can switch on-the-fly with them still in your ears which is cool.

I've spent some time with them and the early sound impressions are good. The sound signature is quite well balanced with the midrange being slightly forward. The bass is punchy, the mids have a slight thickness and weight that is pleasing, and the treble is clear with a nice sparkle.The treble sparkle gives them some more high end detail and extension and keeps the treble from being overpowered by the bass punch or the forward mids. The peak that gives the sparkle stops short of brightness and there is no sibilance with either vocals or cymbals. Nice soundstage, detail level and clarity at this price. These are punchy and fun!

The bass adjustment is not huge but noticeable at this point. Reminds me of the old Sony Megabass switch between off and 1. The Clear Bass is my preferred setting. The Clear Bass setting has a good punch though no bleed into the mids. I assume they will tighten up with enough burn-in but they have little bloat on either setting. A few minutes with the deep bass and there is still good control and the treble is still apparent and extended sounding. Seems to be around a 3-4 dB difference in the two bass settings, enough to make a difference. The clear bass is clear but not weak in impact or amount and the deep bass is stronger but yet stops before muddiness or bloat. The bass is quite level throughout which is why it works. Any nasty humps/peaks in the lows and the deep setting would bloat and clear wouldn't be clear. Nice job with the frequency balance. There seem to be few low price in-ears that don't have thick or bloated bass or that have treble that is either rolled off or too bright. The Pl30 does a nice job, having well behaved bass and treble that that are balanced in their amount and extension. Then throw in the mids that aren't recessed or sibilant. Bottom line - they are worth the dough and seem to be a great option for the under $50 range. We'll see how they hold up long term on the build quality. I'll also have to report back on any noticeable burn-in changes if any.
post #2 of 232
Crossroads is not a Chinese brand, it's Korean/Singaporean.
post #3 of 232
looks good, might try these for flights. Does it leak sound badly?
post #4 of 232
Thread Starter 
Your right, Singapura, they are not Chinese. I worded it such that it sounds like Crossroads is similar in country of origin also. I should have stated they are Chinese and similar to Crossroads separately. I meant they are quite similar in some of their offerings.

@ qib, maybe they have decent isolation for a canalphone, similar to Ultimate Ears even, provided you use foams or bi-flanges. They don't quite give the isolation you get from the better IEM's so they may not cut it for plane use. I don't have any foams for them so I really can't get the maximum isolation.
post #5 of 232
Woah...it's like a knobbed Creative EP630/Mylarone franken-phone! As far as engineering creativity goes, I kind of like it.

Is there any chance that you could post a comparison to other phones of the similar price-range?
post #6 of 232
Thread Starter 
Well, I can say that after 30 hours burn-in they have passed the JVC FX300 and they are also better than the Yuin PK2. Those are a few bucks more though. Any others I have had aren't really fair to comment on from memory.

To sum it up quickly, I would say that they beat the FX300 in clarity and treble quality and have more separation between sounds/instruments. They also have no mid-bass hump so they have more bass clarity while still having more impact than the JVC's. I also prefer the PL30's more forward mids over the JVC's which place you further away. The JVC's have about 100 more hours on them. I also use UE tips on the JVC that I find give an improvement over the stocks.

Versus the the PK2, they have better crispness, clarity, and detail in the treble. They have more punch in the bass. They are a bit more extended on both ends and are more balanced. The two are somewhat like each other. Mid-forward, good separation, adjustable on the bass(donuts or solids). The PL30 are a bit more refined and fuller sounding at this point.

Of course some of that is subjective like how much bass or separation one prefers.
post #7 of 232
Interesting design. Thanks for bringing these to light, jant71. Now, I gotta ask: After these 30 hours of burn-in, still no sibilance?
post #8 of 232
Thread Starter 
No sibilance, even on bad recordings. This is with a Sony minidisc and an Cowon U5.

At a bit shy of 45 hours now. A/B with the FX300 is over. The FX300 seems sizzly on the top end, distant, muddy, murky, smaller, a bit slower. The PL30 is more comfortable and belongs in a higher level SQ-wise. At a point of the burn-in where the bass has increased and is quite powerful. I believe that these might take another hundred hours to be totally done with any changes.

If you read the Soundmagic site, the makers say that this model compares to the E4c. I have had the E4g. Outside of forward, high quality mids there is little resemblance. The PL30 has a bigger soundstage, is a bit faster, has livelier treble and way more bass. The PL30 is the most comfortable earphone since the E4g but maybe better since it is much lighter.

A better comparison is the 5 Pro. If the 5 Pro sounded like this, I would have kept it for more than 21 days. I wanted more forward mids and separation like the Super.fi 3 plus the bigger soundstage, more bass, and more treble control/sparkle of the 5 Pro. The PL is more like the blending of the 3 Studio and 5 Pro. The PL30 has the soundstage of the the 5 Pro and the treble sparkle but better mids. There is more air or black between instruments and the mids are more forward like the 3 Studio. Tone and treble seems to remind me of UE also though I no longer have a UE phone to A/B with. At this time I think they have more bass than the 5 Pro and that is on the lower setting.

$40 phones aren't supposed to have depth like this phone has. You can go in and "explore" the image and the textures. A decent 3-D image with well rounded notes. Not unheard of for a good phone/earphone to do this usually the ones that can do it worth mentioning are pricier. I do remember the Yuin's doing this also since they have some well rounded notes and good separation and soundstage. Still, I used my PK2's exclusively with an S adapter so they did perform better. I think the PL30 is better still.
post #9 of 232
Wow, very high praise. I wonder if anyone else is going to bite -- If they do all you say, they're a veritable steal for the price. Please keep us updated on how they hold up to time and regular use, too.
post #10 of 232
Wow seems like a great IEM, at a great price, this may be one of my future purchases.
post #11 of 232
Thread Starter 
After getting hooked on bike handlebars, yanking them out of my minidisc jack and a couple drops of the U5 tugging on them, I have come to the realization that I am no more worried about them breaking than my SE420 having cord problems. They both seem to be fine with build quality. Of course $40 is much easier to replace.

I have stopped really burning them in and am still under 60 hours. Any improvement is gravy. I expect there will be a small bit more. The only thing I don't prefer about them is the bass amount at this point. They may still calm down. These are more than the 5 Pro and probably as much or more as the EB on the higher setting. Great bass though, and still a pretty well balanced phone.

I went up the chain to the SE420's and did some A/B-ing. I have tip modded the 420's(trimmed E2C black flex with adapters; big soundstage increase) and also S-adapt them which balances them out more and gives some more bass impact, soundstage, detail/precision, and clarity. They top the ER4S and Triple.fi in my book. They have more balance and a bit more impact than the Triples with more separation, clarity, and better mids. They are more balanced than the Ety but have a much larger soundstage and way more bass power. IMO, they only trail the UE in treble extension, speed, and image depth. They only lose to the Ety in speed. The benefits the modding gives put them clearly in the high end no doubt. The 420's are a huge challenge to the PL30 and laugh at the FX300(which I think is still fine for an entry level phone).

After some A/B-ing I am really now truly impressed. I did add the S-adapter to the PL30 for a fair comparison. I would say easily 85-90% of the modded 420's. Way different beasts though. Great clarity from both and great mids from both but the PL30 has more image depth. The 420 might have a slightly bigger image size overall though but very close. The 420 sounds transparent more like a live performance sound where the PL30 has more of a big speaker sound with more profound bass. Perfect complements really. The PL30 is darker but still a bit quicker. The PL30 has more depth as the Shures insanely flat frequency balance keeps it less 3-D even with a huge soundstage.

I have actually decided to sell the 420's. I could easily keep them both as complements but I also have the JVC S900's. The JVC's sound very close to the SE420 with more punch and bigger soundstage due to their 40mm drivers. I don't use the JVC's outside which gave the 420's their purpose. So they are somewhat redundant now and I will keep one earphone, the one small closed headphone that complements it, and one full size.

Since the PL30 is cheap enough it also replaces the need for the FX300 as my exercise/knock around phone. So that is going also. Of course, PM me if there is any interest in the FX300 or SE420. I will probably sell the FX300 for $35 and contribute $25 to Head-fi. The SE420 funds will probably go towards a PMP purchase. I may put the Shures on Amazon though.

I hope these do get to be quite popular around here. Opinions always vary and they won't be everyones ideal sound signature but it has got to be up there on the bang-for-the-buck list. The seller contacted me looking for reviews/info I had seen and asked my opinion or if I had heard of the brand. I think he knows they are good and hopes they will be a big seller for him with some exposure. I agree. Soundmagic also has a nice opinion of them also. They say producing the finest audio quality is their "first priority" and they also will refund your money(within one week) if they "don't outperform any comparable product at the same price, and if you are not completely satisfied with the audio quality". The adjustable bass is cool but pretty much set it and forget like other adjustable earphones. The design, comfort/fit, and SQ are really something for $40.
post #12 of 232
Still enjoying the PL30s, jant71? I waver over whether or not to pick some up...and I'm wondering: Is it possible to comfortably and securely wear these down rather than over-the-ear (without reversing the earpieces)? Also, do you find the low (12 ohm) impedance leads them to pick up the hiss/background noise of DAPs more than most IEMs?
post #13 of 232
Thread Starter 
Yeah, they are probably my favorite earphone of all time, all things considered.

I did try them for you without going over the ear. A bit microphonic but may be possible with longer tips such as bi-flanges. May start popping out on the move though. Quite a bit better if the sides are switched though.

Still as good as any over-the-ear. The light, thin cable is better than most for comfort and hasn't shown any stiffening like the Yuin or JVC phones did.

As for hiss, they should be in the middle. The sensitivity is fairly low at 102db/mW. Low ohm but low sensitivity. I have a Sony minidisc(no hiss), SmartQ T5-II(no hiss, 94SNR) and a Cowon (92 SNR) so none of my portables have hiss issues.
post #14 of 232
I had tried what I think is a rebranded version of this headphone called HF30, which costs $35, and that company also sells the rebranded version of the Crossraods Mylarone X3. Here's the link to their website: dbE acoustics - Good Sound is not Expensive. Looks black on the picture, but they also sell the red/blue version that looks exactly the same as the PL30.

I borrowed my friend's, so this is just based on a quick unamped listening impressions. I think it sounded A LOT like the old crossroads Mylarone X3. Really, if you don't do serious A-Bing, it is hard to find the sound difference.

I think the bass is quite a little bit better on the HF30, and it is easier to pick up the details. They do everything well (bass, mids, highs) for the price. Build quality is a definite improvement over the MylaroneX3s too. They are at least on the same level as PK2, but I still prefer the PK2 for their very clear mids, though treble and bass are clearly lacking.

I will say they are a great value for a canalphone for $40. They are better than the X3 and crush ep630, jbl220, FX300 or those cheaper IEMs. I'm not sure I prefer them to some more expensive IEM I know. It is true that they do have a well-rounded coherent sound, soundstage, comfort(but not much isolation) which will make you prefer them over more expensive IEMs, but IMO they don't have a 'reference' quality sound; there isn't anything that they do very very well.

I rate them below ER4P/S and triple.fi. I 'prefer' im716 and E4c to the HF30. I know some people who have triple.fi, ER4P, and super.fi pro. All of them prefer their IEM amped or unamped to the HF30.

Please do remember that the canalphone I am referring to might or might not be the same as the one jant71 has. And if they are indeed the same, I certainly hope that they'll get popular because they are a very good all-rounder.
post #15 of 232
The entire dbE product line looks exactly the same as the SoundMagic product line here: Welcome to Great-Sounds.com!!
So I'd say it's highly likely they are the same products.
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