SoundMagic E50 & E80 - Story of Two Magicians - A Review...
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Zelda

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SoundMagic E50 & E80 - Story of Two Magicians - A Review...
 
 

 
 
 
Intro:
 
SoundMagic (SM) has been a well known company for the last years. While they haven't released a lot of models, some of them became quite famous and liked by both the consumer and audiophile market, as they usually offered a very well quality/price ratio. The company might have been keeping quiet for a while, but now there're these two new models that possibly will make a new era revolution in the In-ear market. Let's see...
 

 
 
 
Specifications:
 
 
E50:
 
Transducers: Dynamics, 10mm, Neodymium
Frequency range: 15Hz~22KHz
Impedance: 51±10%Ohms
Sensitivity: 102±2dB
Cable length: 1.2m
Connector: 3.5mm, gold-plated
Weight: 13g
 
 
E80:
 
Transducers: Dynamics, 10mm, Neodymium
Frequency range: 15Hz~22KHz
Impedance: 64±10%Ohms
Sensitivity: 102±2dB
Cable length: 1.2m
Connector: 3.5mm, gold-plated
Weight: 13g
 
 
MSRP:
 
E50: US$ 45
E80: US$ 52
 
Both available in 3 colors: Gun-Black, Black-Red and Black-Gold.
 
 
 
Accessories:
 
6 pairs of single tips (S/M/L), in both wide and narrow bore.
1 pair of bi-flange tips
Carrying case
Shirt clip
Comply Foam T-400 tips: 1 pair in M size for the E50 and 3 pairs (S/M/L) for the E80.
[Quite the package, especially for the E80 model with the 3 Comply sizes.]
 

 
 

 
 
 
Design:
 
The two models are pretty much identical, with the exception of the slight difference in the housings design. The shells, Y-split and plug are made of lightweight aluminum, which feel sturdy enough for their price. The cable is the internally twisted one and plastic covered outside, which is already found in many Chinese models. As such, it is average in microphonics and somehow springy; as reference, the RE300h is more comfortable, and the ZA Tenore is way much well behaved, but the SM is already better than some ATH cables. The plug design is quite smart as the 60º angle lets it play as either a straight or L type.
As for the housings, both adopt a regular straight barrel design, lightweight and relatively well sized for the 10mm drivers. The E50 is tapered at the rear with a very short strain relief from the bottom part, while the E80 better relieved as it exits from the rear part, which makes it more rounded at the back. There is what seems to be a small vent on the front side just under the nozzle on both E50 and E80, but the E50 looks to have an extra vent placed at the sideways towards the ear part. Either way driver flex was not present.
 
 

 
 
                
Comfort and Isolation:
 
With the fairly small and lightweight design, both models are quite easy to fit, and will just depend on the eartips in use. They can be used either ways, down or up cable. personally, I found the E80 to be a bit more comfortable for the longer use, as it is more rounded at the rear part.
Isolation is above average, but then again will depend on the tips. They would rate just under the RE400/600 or ZA Tenore, for example, and maybe slightly higher than the RE300h. a best seal is a must here.
 
 

 

 
 
                                    
It's all about Sound, Sound ... Sound ... Magic Sound:
 
Finally the main and truly magical part of these new SM releases. Both E50 and E80 were tuned with a similar target, 'full balance'. Although they differ in their signatures, both present a very well balanced sound through the whole freq. that isn't easily found in this price bracket, and would be hard to find even in headphones that costs 2-3 times more. An important characteristic of both models is the higher than standard rated impedance for just a single 10mm dynamic driver (although the SM PL50 also had a 50+ Ohm it was a BA, and actually was very easy to drive). The only IEM that I can remember with a similar spec. was the legendary Hifiman RE-0 with its 64 Ohm. The E80 is also rated as a 64ohm, and interestingly enough they do share certain similarities in sound, (but definitely not the E50). Still, they're not hard to drive at all, but do benefit from extra amplification/stronger sources, as they tend to open up the overall sound and mainly improve the stage dimensions and separation.
 
 
 
E50The Musicality Witch
 
Starting from the E50 model, its sound signature was tuned towards the warm and smooth side of things, keeping an excellent balance and very full sound. The coloration is easily noticed when compared to the E80 sibling or other 'flat' earphones out there, but is yet much better balanced than what usually every consumer oriented warmer earphones tend to be. The E50 doesn't show much source dependence and manages to keep its own personality. It doesn't present a real favoritism to EQ, but I'd prefer the E50 matched with a neutral to analytical source than pairing it with a warmer one; Cayin C5 showed an excellent synergy (and so the C5+E80 did).
 
Bass on the E50 is north of neutral as for what quantity matters, and might probably be the very first to be noticed out of box. That's not to say it'd reach overwhelming levels anytime soon, just that the warmth and richness make themselves known whenever the chance shows. The low end freq. are fairly equally balanced from sub to upper-bass, with more than enough strength and great layering and separation. Not the tightest and fastest per-se, but the depth is worth noting.
 
Mids are slightly warmed up by the low-end extra emphasis, not recessed nor forward, yet rather full and quite rich in body and texture. Clarity and separation are really good for a sub $50 IEM, and combined with the musicality and sweetness, make the E50 a very enjoyable and engaging set. While not a best vocalist, as something like a Hifiman RE400 (pricier) or Ostry KC06 can be, or even the pure vocal Fidue A63, the E50 already leave behind something like a RE300h or Astrotec GX50.
 
Upper mids show zero hint of grain and yet don't lack of sparkle and energy. Treble is sparkly and energetic as well, not as full or extended as the bass can get, but doesn't disappoint in resolution and tonality. It is smooth enough to be called 'safe' treble, and still has everything to keep the balance even.
 
 
 
E80: The Transparency Wizard, a new Reference
 
The E80 is quite the game changer and will redefine what a truly balanced and neutral earphone should be like, and not just for the ridiculous $50-60 price. The E80 is a newcomer that simply competes among the best $150 sets (and I'd dare to say even $200). It does remind a lot of the old RE-0 and the last year both Ostry winners that made quite a stir (and both are still considered among the best $100 earphones nowadays). Yet, the E80 has the edge over those and has its aim set straight to the higher priced ones, like the RHA MA750, Dunu Titan1, Vsonic GR07 and T-Peos Altone200. Furthermore, the E80 might be found even more balanced than these, but of course it comes in exchange of less a "fun" and lively presentation, with less bass strength and treble brightness.
 
The keyword to describe the E80 would be 'transparency'. It's pretty much a perfect neutrality with the dynamics and natural warmth each dynamic driver would have. But transparency is truly outstanding, too true to the source in use, be it bass, treble or stage. This would make it harder to describe the kind of sound of the earphone, but let's give a general idea of it.
 
The bass on the SM E80 is very tight and quick, slightly punchy, fast in attack and natural in decay. As it follows the neutral signature, it does lack in body and weight, and while as not as deep as the E50, it extends further without effort. Good thing is that despite the lower quantity, the E80 responds very nice to EQ which may bring some extra amount for those who really need it.
 
Midrange is very interesting, boosting a very high level of detail and resolution with the outstanding transparency and a delicate sweetness on it. It's hard to find such a nice mixture without going into a more analytical or drier signature (and higher price). SoundMagic made quite an achievement here with the E80 mids. The E50 is thicker and sweeter but also slower and fairly less detailed. The E80 midrange is smooth and very liquid, and shows a high sense of air and separates better each instrument and voice. While very neutral, it is difficult to define whether the mids are placed a bit forward or distant as the transparent sound makes them very true to the source and music in play. Whichever the case, the E80 won't be a V-shaped sound anytime soon.
 
As to complete the whole neutral balance and bring details forward, the treble is slightly pushed towards the bright side. Luckily, the 64 ohm impedance makes itself obvious, as the highs won't show a hint of unnecessary sibilance or sharpness even at moderate to higher volume. The stronger source could play an important role here to add more energy if needed and open up an even higher resolution, but still the E80 will be enough on its own.
 
 
 
 
 
Comparisons:
 
E80 Vs: RHA MA750 & Hifiman RE400 (B)
 
The MA750 and RE400 (and to a less degree the 'Balanced' version) are pretty much the opposite of each other in freq. response. Both would classify as 'balanced' sounding IEMs but different in their presentation. While the RE400 is more midrange and vocal centered, the MA750 shows a slight U-shaped response with more focus on the instrument dept. The E80 could be placed in the middle way of these two. Not as so lively as the MA750 and not as big and wide in stage, but very close in treble extension and presence. Bass is obviously smaller too, but still more present and better rounded than the RE400. Mids and vocals are very neutral in distance/forwardness, making the RE400 sound thicker and emphasized, whereas the MA750 may sound just a tad drier and less focused. The MA750 will sound much more aggressive and more tiring than the smoother and easier SM E80, but not as laid-back as the RE400.
 
Anyway, my vote would still go for the RHA set as it's a better in timbre and a bit better in overall presentation (not to mention the highest build quality, more comfort and higher isolation level).
 
 
 
E80 Vs: Dunu Titan1, T-Peos Altone200 and Fischer Audio Dubliz
 
The Titan1 and Altone200 do share a similar pronounced V-shaped sound while the Dubliz is smoother through mids and highs and enhances the bass regions. The comparison against the E80 won't be in signature as the differences are very clear, rather the Sound Quality of the just $50-60 E80 that can compete with these $100-150+ sets. Overall detail is on par of these 3 models (and the above mentioned RE400 and MA750 as well). While the E80 won't have the satisfying amount of bass or treble or the wider stage presentation (when un-amped), the neutrality, more intelligent balance and the smoother yet bright treble might make a nicer option for many. The E80 also showed an easier response to different EQ settings.
 
 
 
 
 
SoundMagic Vs Ostry
 
Both Ostry Bros. have become quite famous since their appearance last year and still are one of the easiest to recommended earphones nowadays. Now with the new SoundMagic magicians, the Ostry might have a very stiff competition, and I'm confident they could even take their places as the best bang-for-buck earphones. The SM already boost a slightly better build quality along with a nicer accessories set, and a more acceptable isolation level (which the Ostry really lacked).
 
As for what Sound goes, the E50 won't become a real menace to the Ostry's as it is still not up there in terms of clarity and resolution, but it does sound smoother than the KC06 and less mid-bassy than the 06A.  Still, the E50 could easily best the RE300h or ZA Tenore, both which sounded pretty darker, bloated and too smooth in comparison. Something like the warmer Astrotec GX50 is much thicker in note and much less airy, and sounds more closed as well, whereas the E50 will be more open and resolving anytime.
 
Then, the E80 is the one to be taken in count as it can outdate the two models in terms of balance, definition and imaging, and even stage dimensions. Amplification is a key here, as each model will take a different route in signature matters depending on the source.
 
 
Conclusion & Value:
 
At this point of the review, it's no secret that these two new SoundMagic models are more than impressive and worth the money and much more. Be it just for the sound quality or taken as a whole package with the solid build quality, simple yet attractive design and very nice accessory set, they would both offer a new reference as what an In-ear earphone should be nowadays. The E50 could become popular among the larger masses, although the E80 will be very well welcomed by the more audiophile listeners.
 
SoundMagic, these were definitely well worth the wait. Well done and welcome back!
 
 
 
==============================================================
 
And here are some others impressions:
 
http://www.head-fi.org/products/soundmagic-e80-in-ear-monitor-headphone/reviews/13477
 
http://www.head-fi.org/products/soundmagic-e50-e50s/reviews/13512
 
http://www.head-fi.org/products/soundmagic-e50-e50s/reviews/13363
 
http://www.head-fi.org/products/soundmagic-e80-in-ear-monitor-headphone/reviews/13331
 
http://www.head-fi.org/products/soundmagic-e80-in-ear-monitor-headphone/reviews/13683
 
http://www.head-fi.org/t/772661/soundmagic-e50-e80-story-of-two-magicians-a-review/15#post_11730243
 
http://www.head-fi.org/t/772661/soundmagic-e50-e80-story-of-two-magicians-a-review/15#post_11752313
 
http://www.head-fi.org/t/771066/soundmagic-release-e50s-and-e80s-in-ear-reference-series/30#post_11704153
 
http://www.head-fi.org/t/771066/soundmagic-release-e50s-and-e80s-in-ear-reference-series/30#post_11709404
 
 
 
E50 & E80 sponsor release thread: link
 
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smith

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Great reviews. Thanks.
 
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famagosta

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Very interesting and informative review, Zelda! If the E80 can really be an upgrade over the KC06 (be it the A model or not) we have a winner here, at that price range. I'm waiting for the gun-metal model of the E80 to be available on the usual webshops, as it seems that at the moment only the red one can be purchased and I don't like that colour scheme.
 
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smith

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It's a shame that they do not appear to be as easy to drive as the KCO6...
 
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Zelda

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upgrade or not will depend on each one tastes, the E80 are already a steal at this price.
 
being harder to drive is not that bad actually. they're less prone to hiss than the KC's
 
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DannyBai

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Nice review Zelda.  Finally a review from you and I own the earphones.  I pretty much agree with what you've written.
 
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AvidlyEclectic

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Zelda, I've read your Hifiman RE400 review and you raved about them too. How does the E80 compare to the Hifiman?

edit: didn't see the comparison above, sorry
 
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jant71

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Nice review Zelda! This seems to be the only dedicated thread to them in the portable forum. I have the E80 and they are more than just some hype. The real deal though the tips that come stock on them hold them back a bit. TF10 tips do wonders being even wider bore and stiffer to give cure their bass softness and give them impact.
 
I only need to try them with a more powerful source once my 770C comes in and check out the results as far as them opening up.
 
Great fight between the E80 and Sport 2 w/OS300 tips going on here with me. E80 wins by a hair. Both beat the Titan 1. Even say the AN16 with the right tips squeaks by the DUNU as well.
 
Need to stay with short tips and the E80 conforms to your canal angle nicely and gives a great seal and, at least for me, is good for lying down with them. Nearly a perfect fit for depth and seal and being consistent in getting the fit. E80 and FX46 are the clear winners I've had for fit and comfort lately. Titan 1 is good there as well but just not on the same level. 
 
Cable is not the best behaved and the stock tips need to be upgraded but otherwise the E80 is everything you want in a $50-ish earphone.
 
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Deviltooth

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Obviously I'm going to have to check out the E80.  I love high value for the dollar earphones.
 
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@Zelda Great work ! I really enjoyed reading it :)

Can't wait for my pair to arrive....
 
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kahaluu

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Nice review. Should be getting my E50's soon.
 
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ronnel0918

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  upgrade or not will depend on each one tastes, the E80 are already a steal at this price.
 
being harder to drive is not that bad actually. they're less prone to hiss than the KC's
 
I wonder if they'll be perfect with my Clip Zip. The Tenore is quite sensitive enough to my Clip Zip that I don't even need an amp to reach their full potential.
 
Hopefully the E80 will arrive on our local gadget store here so I can audition.
 
Thanks for the informative review!
 
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vyogan

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  Where are they available to be purchased in  other colours other than black-red?
Currently all the stores only show black-red. Penonaudio, Miccastore and Aliexpress included. Ordered mine from Penonaudio, can't wait to hear the e80.
 
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