More so than many AVguide.com users or Playback readers might realize, ours is a truly international community of music lovers and personal audio enthusiasts, so that together we have the privilege of exchange of exchanging insights from all over the world. As Tom Martin, owner of our parent company Nextscreen, is fond of saying, “pixels and electrons don’t know what international borders they may happen to be crossing,” which is a very cool thing in my book. And so it is that from time to time I receive emails and even the occasional phone call from enthusiasts who live oceans away from Nextscreen headquarters in Austin, TX, USA.
One such call came a few weeks ago from a delightful professor/audio enthusiast who lives in Greece and whose passion for all things related to earphones and desktop audio simply bubbles over whenever we have a chance to compare notes. During the call, the good professor asked me if I had ever had the chance to hear SoundMAGIC earphones, since he held them in high regard and thought other AVguide/Playback readers might enjoy them, too. I replied that I had heard of them, but had never had the chance to sample them personally (you know how it goes: so many good headphones, so little time…).
But with curiosity thus piqued, equipment loans were soon arranged and before long three small cartons arrived from SoundMAGIC (aka, Shenzen Soundmagic Technology Development Co., Ltd., of Guangdong, China). The cartons contained a representative sampling of three SoundMAGIC earphones: the E 10 ($35), E 30 ($39), and PL 50 ($55).
Here’s a brief overview.
E 10: The E 10 is a low impedance (16 Ohm) earphone offering moderate sensitivity (100 dB/mW) and that features 10mm moving coil drivers with neodymium magnets. The E 10 provides solid metal housings and hence carries this marketing tagline: “Feel the charm of metal.” The E 10 appears conceptually similar to the NuForce NE-700M or Monster Cable Turbines, meaning its earpieces are roughly cylinder-shaped, with cables exiting at right angles from the rear. The E 10’s design is ideal for listeners who prefer to wear earphone with their signal cables draped straight down (rather than routed up and over the wearer’s ears).
E 30: The E 30 is a very low impedance (12 Ohm) earphone offering moderate-to-low sensitivity (94 dB/mW) and that features 9mm moving coil drivers with neodymium magnets. Unlike the E 10, the E 30 features a slightly oblong body that is designed specifically for “professional over-ear cabling for best fit.” To this end, the E 30s come with a set of soft molded ear hooks that also double as signal-cable guides.
PL 50: The PL 50 is low impedance (24 Ohm) earphone offering comparatively high sensitivity (109 dB/mW) and that features—get this—a single micro balanced armature driver. Unless I am mistaken, I believe this fact earns the PL 50 the distinction of being (by a wide margin) the most affordable balanced armature-driven earphone on the planet! Like the E 30, the PL 50 is also designed to support over-the-ear cable routing, and thus features an oblong body and comes with a set of clip-on combo ear hook/cable guides.
What about the sound? In the fullness of time Playback will review all three SoundMAGIC models (though the E 10/E 30 pair might become the subjects of a group review), but for now I’d like to focus my attention specifically on the PL 50.
Right off the bat, the PL 50 served up the effortless clarity and—of equal importance—the kind of “cut-from-whole-cloth” sonic integrity and top-to-bottom coherence that I have come to associate with fine, single balanced-armature based designs (one good example would be the classic Etymotic Research ER-4P). As is typical of some such designs (again, think of the sound of Etymotic ER-4P), the bass balance of the PL 50 can at first seem a bit lean, although the low-end is admirably taut and well-defined. But the longer you listen, the more natural and “right” the PL 50’s balance seems. The really impressive part, first and last, is experiencing this little earphone’s impressive clarity and articulation. Quite honestly, if you told blindfolded listeners that the PL 50 came with a three-figure price tag, no one would bat an eyelash over your claim. While I need more listening time to say for sure, it seems to me the SoundMAGIC PL 50 is well on its way toward becoming Playback’s sonic purity-per-dollar champion.
Are SoundMAGIC earphones the next (little) big thing from China? For music lovers—especially music lovers on a budget—they could well be. And besides, how could you not like a company whose stated ambitions are these three:
- “To build the world-wide trust relationship.”
- “To provide high performance-price ratio products.”
- “To offer professional service.”
Watch for full-length reviews of SoundMAGIC’s E 10, E 30, and PL 50 in upcoming posts from AVguide/Playback.