SoundMAGIC PL11

As with the PL30s, first impressions of the PL11s are not all that encouraging. We can safely say that package design is not a SoundMAGIC strong suit and, judging by the tagline 'Listening Magic Sound, Feeling SoundMAGIC!' neither is copy writing. As the rest of the text on the package is in Chinese, there's not much else to sell the PL11s to you. However, inside the box there's everything you'd expect from a pair of budget earphones, including a small velveteen carry pouch, a cable winder and two pairs of alternative size eartips. What's more, SoundMAGIC actually goes one better than the competition by offering one pair of double-flange eartips and one pair of Shure-style foam eartips.

In terms of build quality, the PL11s aren't bad but they don't exactly inspire full confidence. The cable feels a little cheaper and thinner than you might find on, say, the Sennheiser CX300-IIs, though there is a metallic ring to reinforce the Y junction and rubber sleeves protecting the connections at either end. SoundMAGIC has fitted a small crocodile clip to the cable so you can hook the headphones into clothing, and I'd advise you do so as, despite the rubbery coating, the cable is quite noisy when it hits anything solid.
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The PL11s look less weird than the PL30s, but we're still not talking pin-up material. The styling is best described as no-frills, with little more than a thick metal ring to separate the cable and the eartip. Luckily, they are surprisingly comfortable. The PL11s remind me of my Denon AHC-551s in that they don't go too far into the ear but fit very snugly, and I've already used the PL11s on a couple of long-distance train journeys without any discomfort. Sure, they're no Klipsch Image X5s - you will feel the PL11s are in there - but then at this price you can't really expect anything more. With the right eartips in place, sound isolation is also pretty good, and certainly better than most other earphones in this price range.

Okay. So much for all the down-beat stuff. The fact is that, for a pair of £20 earphones, the PL11s sound fantastic. The first thing you'll notice is the bass. Get a good seal - the foam tips are pretty nifty for this - and the PL11s dish out a warm, thick low-end that's just on the right side of dominant. In this respect, they remind me a little of Denon's cheap and cheerful AHC-252s. However, where the Denons did heavy bass to the detriment of pretty much everything else, the PL11s also deliver at the top-end, and without leaving any hideous gaping holes in the mid-range. I suspect there's been a little scooping of certain mid-range frequencies in the name of clarity, but the overall sound is warm, lively and punchy.

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