Review: SoundMAGIC E30 in-ear-phones
A new earphones model from SoundMAGIC, a Company that has given us such exciting earphones as PL11, PL30 and the top-tier PL50, can never go unnoticed. So, when E30 was announced, I asked a sample for a review.
E30 came in the new packaging that SoundMAGIC is using for the E series, which is at least as attractive as that of the PL series. And, as soon as you open the box, you find exactly what you need:
1 pair of E30
6 sets S/M/L of silicone eartips and double flange silicone eartips
1 cable clip
1 ear hook
1 soft travel pouch
1 warranty card
On top of it, E30 comes in a variety of colors, black, pink, light blue and white, which would suit every taste.
The accessories are similar to those provided with PL30. There is a variety of earbuds, in both size and type, in order to fit everyone; the cable clip is there, although with earphones worn over the ear it is not absolutely necessary; and the ear hook is indeed useful for some listeners. The only difference is in the carrying pouch: E30 comes with a soft one compared to the high quality pouch supplied with PL30. Of course, this is a matter of taste; not to mention that earphones are for listening to music, not to carry them around in a elegant pouch!
The first time that you see E30, it immediately reminds you of PL30. And this was actually the idea behind designing E30: Keep the merits of PL30 and eliminate their weak points. Now, one should keep in mind that PL30 has proven very successful during the past few years, so improving it was not really an easy task. Nonetheless, the improvement is in both design and performance. PL30 is more of a “classical” design, while E30 is a more “modern” one in order to appeal also to young(er) people; obviously, this was the idea behind having the set in four colors. E30, like PL30, is very lightweight and comfortable, and the only thing that reminds you that you are wearing earphones is the sound coming out of them. There is a different color in the strain relief for each channel, black for the left and red for the right, which, although common in many earphones nowadays, it is nonetheless practical. Like all other SoundMAGIC earphones that I have tested, the cable is strong and well built, particularly around the Y-splitter, which here has a nice looking protective aluminum cover, and it also does not tangle easily, something really annoying to most people. On the other hand, the over-the-ear fit, with or without the ear hook and/or the cable clip, almost eliminates unwanted microphonics, a fairly common problem of earphones.
However, notwithstanding the above aesthetic changes, the most pleasant surprise is the improvement in sound. Indeed, E30 excels, and it is better than PL30 in both tonal balance and resolution. Granted, E30 does not give you the option of clear or deep bass, by means of that tiny knob of PL30 (although one actually wonders how practical that feature is), but nonetheless the sound is well balanced with taut bass, nice midrange and clear highs. In both Paris Bossa, by Kendra Shank with L. Willis/G. Bartz, from the album “Afterglow”, Mapleshade Productions, and Papa Was a Rolling Stone, by A La Carte Brass & Percussion, from the album “Boogeyin’!”, Mapleshade Productions, the sound kept a nice balance, and it was analytical and articulate. However, where it really shined was in Serendipity, by M. Garson, from the album “Michael Garson Serendipity”; the passages from piano to cymbals were so distinct and detailed that reminded me of earphones that cost quite a bit more. Even in I Won’t Back Down, Solitary Man or One by Johnny Cash, from the album “American III: Solitary Man”, Sony Music, where there is just Johnny Cash with his guitar, the sound is well rounded without any (or at least the minimum of) sharp edges. On top of all this, soundstaging and imaging was in all cases very good.
All in all, E30 is better, in pretty much every aspect, than PL30, and this is quite an accomplishment if one takes into account how good PL30 is; sometimes, an attempt to improve an already good product could lead to an ambiguous result. Fortunately, this is not the case with E30, which is an improvement of PL30 in both tonal balance and resolution, and it succeeds to reproduce the audio spectrum more than adequately.
Ok, E30 is better than PL30, but how does it compare to SoundMAGIC’s flagship PL50? Well, E30 sounds quite analytical, but somewhat lean compared to the full bodied sound of PL50, which has also more extended high frequencies than E30. All this is of course due to the components used in each set; no matter how clever is the design of E30, its dynamic drivers show their limitations compared to the balanced armature drivers of PL50.
Ratings (compared to earphones of similar price):
Tonal balance: 9.5/10
Bottom line: Excellent tonal balance; very analytical sound; very good reproduction of lows, mids and highs; great soundstaging and imaging; good dynamics. And all this in a sleek design, which is also extremely comfortable. What else could one ask? I guess an attractive price. Well, how about $39.95? It sounds unbeatable to me.
Specifications and price:
Drivers: Dynamic 9mm neodymium magnet
Frequency range: 15~22000 Hz
DC Resistance: 12±10% Ω
Sensitivity: 94±2 dB at 1KHz/mW
Maximum input power: 20mW
Cable length: 1.2 m
Connection: Stereo mini jack plug 3.5mm gold plated
Weight: 10 g