Review of SoundMagic E10 and EH11 in-ear headphones w/lots of pics!!!


  1. twister6

    twister6 Guides Guide

    This is a review of SoundMagic E10 (http://www.soundmagic.com.cn/en/products/Details51c33p34.html) and H11 (Audio Earphone--SoundMAGIC Technology Development Co., Ltd.) in-ear headphones.

    As a lot of you probably noticed, early on I reviewed a number of premium multi-driver headphones from some of the top brand names. Now, I'm taking a step back to bring you a number of budget friendly single driver models. But don't let the word "budget" and "single driver" fool you. Price is no longer an indicating factor where something that cost 10x-15x as much sounds that much better. Recently I discovered a whole new world of Asian brand headphones that blew me away with their sound quality. Among those, I would like to share with you in-ear models from SoundMagic. There is one thing I would like to get out of the way. If you live in US or EU, you will be relying on Amazon or eBay to purchase these, and it could be very deceiving with counterfeit/fake models sold on-line. What makes it especially difficult, these headphones are not expensive to begin with, and often counterfeits cost a few dollars cheaper which makes it hard to spot it. My review samples came from Micca Distributor store on Amazon, also one of the main distributors of FiiO products, and I verified their product to be genuine. So be very careful when you search for a product on Amazon. Don't just click on Add to the Cart button, but rather check on the right under More Buying choices to select the exact place you are buying from. With that warning out of the way, let's take a closer look at what I found.

    SoundMagic E10 is not a new model, being introduced back in 2011, but it still considered by a lot of professional audio publications as the top choice for budget headphones under $50. 3 years later, their price is still $35 but the package has been refreshed with more premium accessories. To start with packaging, it's minimalistic and very compact, and very effective in presentation of premium quality of the product. The box has a detailed description of main features, performance spec, accessories, and even a story behind the company, and in addition to a printed picture of headphones the opposite side has a see-through window to show the actual product. Out of the box, you get a pair of super lightweight all aluminum cylindrical body headphones (only 11g !!!), 2 sets of S/M/L eartips (with wide and narrow openings), one set of double-flange tips (better insertion), a shirt clip, and a premium hard case. In early models, only one set of eartips was offered and drawstring storage pouch instead of hard case. The eartip opening plays a significant role in sound shaping with wide one for brighter higher frequency content and narrow one for more bass. The selection of eartips is very important to get the best sound from any in-ear headphones, and E10 is no exception. Since I use only largest eartips of a specific shape, I had to switch to my own from another pair of headphones, but included ones should cover any need and you can also use Comply (T400) for extra isolation. Furthermore, E10 comes with a straight gold plated 3.5mm connector with a very narrow body, and it also has a narrow y-splitter with a chin-slider for a more secure fit of wires. Headphone wires look very unique with a twisted-wire look inside of a rubbery shrink wrap tubing; tangle free and easy to manage with zero microphonics. Attached to headphones, wires go through a short strain relief which is color coded Red for the right side and Black for the left side which makes identification really fast and easy.

    While the design looks very traditional, a modest cylindrical shape with a fresh bi-color painting, once you put these in - you will raise your eyebrows in disbelieve of what you are hearing. OK, I'm not going to hype it up saying they sound better than some of my $400-$500 quad armature driver IEMs, but I will say that a sound quality of these $35 (which includes premium accessories) single dynamic driver headphones is way beyond a number of other premium ones that cost $100 and more. E10 has a fun sound signature with a relatively balanced response with noticeably enhanced low end. Typically headphones with such quantity of bass, where you get a nice amount of sub-bass rumble and clear mid-bass punch, will have a v-shaped sound with recessed mids. Not with E10! Mids were upfront, clear, and detailed enough. This is especially noticeable and greatly appreciate with vocals. Treble is clear and has a nice sparkle to it, but it's not overly bright and a little bit rolled off which contributes to overall warmth of the sound. It's definitely easy on your ears and will be great for extended listening. The soundstage is wider than average, probably thanks to open ports in the body of these headphones. Also, these were quite forgiving listening to audio from laptop, or my phone, or X5 DAP. They even sound very reasonable with low quality mp3s. I also have to note, with a right eartip fitment they have a very good passive noise isolation.

    Here are the pictures of E10.

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    Next is SoundMagic EH11 clip-on in-ear model. To be honest, I only requested E10 for review and I wasn't even aware of EH11 model, but I'm glad I received this review sample as well. Since I always start with a packaging, this one is no exception and you can clearly see SoundMagic did a great job with a presentation of these headphones. Under a clear display cover EH11 looks very intriguing with it's non-traditional clip-on sports headphone style - designed for active lifestyle. In addition to description of features, spec, list of accessories and different color options, they also have instructions on how to put these on (very important). Out of the box, you get a pair of headphones which do look a bit confusing at first due to a non-traditional over ear hook, 2 sets of S/M/L eartips with wide (for more highs) and narrow (for more lows) opening, a shirt clip, and a pleather drawstring storage pouch. 3.5mm gold plated plug had a color matched aluminum body, the same as y-splitter which is followed by a plastic chin-slider. The wires seem to be hidden inside of plasticky neon round thin wire tube. Headphones are not directly attached to the wire but rather going into a thin aluminum telescoping tube (extends to adjust for a better fitment) which is attached to a perpendicular tab with headphone piece attached to it. Behind-the-ear piece is made out of rubbery material covering a flex wire. Within a few seconds of figuring out this setup, you will quickly realize how unique and cool the design is. You swing the earpieces out of the way to make room, and put the hooks behind your ears. Once you adjust behind the ear flex wire piece and the height of the earpiece, swing the headphones into your ear and you are done!

    I have tested a number of different sports headphones with behind the ear fitment and with stabilizer/fins that go into your ear - this by far has one of the most secure and "lightweight" fits. First of all, though you can select the best fitting eartip to jam headphones into your ears, you don't really have to do it since they will stay right in without a worry of falling out. As a matter of fact, I typically use only large eartips, but with EH11 I used a medium size. The benefit of this setup - while exercising you don't have to cut yourself from outside world so you are well aware of what's going on around you. Another huge benefit, if you want to talk to someone or need to listen to what's going on outside, you don't have to take headphones off, just swing them out to open your ear. I demonstrated it in the last two pictures below. The sound quality was pretty good too. Don't expect audiophile details coming from this single dynamic driver, but it packs a very powerful bass, with both nice sub-bass layer and punchy mid-bass, a clear mids (though they are recessed in a typical v-shape fashion, but not too extreme), as well as clear treble with just enough details while also rolled off to cut brightens for an overall warm sound signature. I think this sound signature is very appropriate for rhythm driven music for sports and active lifestyle, rather than a classical or jazz music. Don't get me wrong, they do sound pretty good and not extremely v-shaped, just not detailed enough for a critical listening; rather intended to get you pumping while running around!

    Here are the pictures of EH11.

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    Overall, I was very impressed with both of these SoundMagic in-ear headphone models. Even without taking a price into consideration, E10
    has a very impressive sound quality with a nice balanced frequency response and a very impressive bass quantity. Now if you take into consideration $35 price tag which includes a generous selection of eartips and a premium hard case - the value is hard to beat. The only negative is that some might prefer in-line remote/mic controls which E10 model doesn't offer, and also it's hard to judge the build quality without a long term test, but for this price and sound quality - this is a minor concern. With EH11, $50 price tag is a big higher and sound quality is not on the same level as E10, but they have a different intention and a very unique clip-on design. If you look at something like PowerBeats with a kind of similar design which cost 3x as much and offers worse sound and fitment - EH11 is a bargain. It's great to see that you can save money without sacrificing the performance. Just keep in mind, when you "Add to your cart" on Amazon, you are not buying it directly from SoundMagic, but rather from a number of distributors listed under that product where you never know if you are getting a real or a fake one (forget about eBay). I can only speak for Micca Distributor as the source where I received these headphones from and can reassure those were real.

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