This review is written from the perspective of the E30 stock, no external amp or DAC, to give readers an idea of what to expect if they buy these without an amp/DAC. I wanted to thank Tony at SoundMagic for the chance to review these wonderful IEMs!
Pros: Sound is phenomenal for the price, packaging is great.
Cons: Build quality is lacking, comfort is an issue, slight microphonics
The SoundMagic E30 come in one of the best packaging jobs I've ever seen. This is before I'm even able to see the packaging mind you. The E30 came securely wrapped with a brown cardboard box wrapped tightly around the actual package with either end having a label telling the user to fax a picture to SoundMagic if it had been tampered with or opened. With all of the fakes around SoundMagic is definitely making it almost impossible to replicate these and I find that to be amazing.
After opening the authenticity wrap I was greeted with a white cardboard box with a somewhat minimal design. On the front the user is presented with a window to view the IEMS. Above the window there is a SoundMagic logo. Below that is a quick description of the E30. On either side of the packaging there's not much, one one side a slogan, "Listening magic sound, feeling SoundMagic" on another side it shows the IEMs in other colors. The back has specifications such as driver size, frequency range, impedance, cable length and accessories. On the back on the bottom there's also a authenticity seal and inside the box a thick paper sleeve has a serial number, which includes manufacture date. When you buy these new, you will be absolutely positive that they are authentic, which I like. I really like the box, it's pleasing to the eye and neither tacky or gaudy.
Inside the IEMs are held carefully by clear plastic and included is a pleather pouch with a nicely designed SoundMagic logo. Three pairs of mushroom tips are included and a pair of bi-flanges. The accessories are definitely a nice addition and I feel that SoundMagic is slightly above average with the packaging.
Design and Build Quality:
My first thought is that these are tiny. I thought the tips that came on the E30 were just for show they were so small. It turns out they're actually the small. I normally wear medium tips on every other IEM, these I was forced to use the large. The IEMs themselves are very tiny which makes them a bit difficult to get them in at first, but once you get used to it there's no problem at all. They sit securely and rather comfortable in the ear. Each IEM is marked with blue or red to indicate left or right, red is right, blue is left, to let users know which side goes where!
The IEMs seem rather sturdy themselves. I feel like they are built well, the cord is a bit stiff but I feel like it will hold up through some wear and tear. There's a shirt clip to help with microphonics, which works sort of, but it made the IEMs feel a bit awkward when walking around so I opted out.
Isolation is decent at best with them. I definitely hear outside noises rather clearly with no music playing, it's blocked out slightly of course, but due to the shallow insertion there's not much. With music playing it isolates decently, I couldn't really hear much on the outside when driving or walking, but I definitely could hear some slight noise. I feel this would be fixed though with a deeper insertion provided with tri-flanges or bi-flanges. Unfortunately no tri-flanges are included and the bi-flanges didn't fit me.
Overall they have a decent build quality to them, but they are too small for my liking and the cable feels a bit cheap. I would put them on par with similarly priced IEMs for this section, nothing spectacular either way.
I want it to be known that these headphones blew my mind the second I heard them. The clarity has me thinking of my Ad900s. The sound actually reminds me slightly of them. I'll try to explain without sounding ridiculous. These headphones have a fantastic mid-range, slightly forward, clear and very musical. The highs are clear and extended without being fatiguing, though some sibilance is noticeable. Now here's the part that differs from the Ad900 and may even sound silly. The bass is definitely pushy, it lacks some impact, but is definitely quality. It extends well, but sometimes over exerts itself into tracks making it the main focus. I know I said the mids are slightly forward and that these are relatively balanced/neutral headphones, so how can the bass be slightly pushy/prominent? Well overall the miss and highs are well tuned to work together, neither pushes the other out of the way, and they both sound wonderful and present. The bass though is definitely pushy. It doesn't muddle up the mids like one would expect, but it makes itself a prominent feature in most songs, sometimes a bit too much.
The soundstage is typical of an IEM, nothing special. The sound is a bit congested at times, but overall it sounds great.
I hope that makes sense. Overall though these headphones are hard to beat for the price. If the A151 were similar to the HD5XX series, then the E30 are similar to a bass heavy Ad900. Funnily enough though, as much as I love my Ad900, I think I prefer the A151 over the E30 overall. These are definitely top notch headphones though that bass lovers will love, without messing up the other frequencies or sounding muddy.
Rage Against the Machine - Renegades of Funk
I chose this because there's a reason many professional audio companies use this to set up speakers. Rage has amazing mastering and production value while hitting every frequency area while being very balanced. The vocals come in crystal clear with the high frequency guitar being very present, but not pushy. The drums come in and I feel like I'm in the room with them as they're recording, the bass is slightly pushy but clear and quality. The crunch of the distorted guitar comes in with amazing clarity and impact. I may eat my words, but I'm not sure I've ever heard a guitar sound this good. Overall the bass is a bit prominent over the rest, but not enough to ruin the song, not even close.
Sara Bareilles - Between the Lines
It's no secret I love female vocalists. I chose this track to test for sibilance and to see how the E30 handled an acoustic piano. The piano sounds lovely and warm, the vocals do as well, but unfortunately there is some sibilance. It's not terrible, but it is turning me off of this song. The bass sounds warm and lovely, the piano and guitars sound a bit congested, but good overall. Unfortunately though the sibilance turns me off too much for this song.
James Blake - Limit To Your Love
I chose this because of the deep bass, it will more than likely be my track to forever test bass because of the quantity. The vocals and acoustic piano sound fantastic off the bat, but let's see the bass. The wobbles come in and it's definitely well extended, I even feel it. It's not rattling my head, but I feel this amount of bass would suit any bass head. The bass is strong and I feel it. In some tracks the bass has a problem being a bit pushy, but here it's very welcomed.
Brazil - We
I like to pick Brazil when I look at a headphones instrument separation capabilities. This song and album has fantastic instrument separation with any instrument being able to be picked out at any given moment. I also like to choose this album because many songs are fast paced and have a lot of attack to them. Right away the dual guitars are easily separated from each other, with the drums and bass easily discerned as well. Throughout the song I'm easily able to pick out anything even the subtle piano riffs. The distorted guitars sound crunchy and these IEMs definitely keep up with the quick pace of the song. The bass is a bit pushy though again. It doesn't ruin the song, but it's definitely present.
Radiohead - The Bends
I chose this because I love alternative rock and this is a classic alternative rock song. The guitars are crunchy, clear and sound fantastic. The bass is slightly pushy again, see a trend? The vocals sound wonderful no matter what range Thom Yorke hits. The drums have a nice sound and impact to them. This track sounds wonderful with these.
For $40 these are very hard to beat. They have great clarity and each range of frequencies sounds wonderful. Unfortunately the bass is a bit too pushy at times and there's some sibilance. The comfort issues also are a concern. Even with that said, for $40 I think you'd be hard pressed to find a better IEM. I highly recommend these, especially for those who want strong quality bass.
Edited by keanex - 10/11/11 at 8:22am