SoundMAGIC PL50

While they're still not much to look at, SoundMAGIC's higher-end IEMa are certainly a big step up from the PL11 and PL30 in terms of style and design, with compact earpieces that should fit even within smaller ears and an understated dark blue finish. They actually look quite close to classy. The design is a little unusual in that, like the Shure SE102s or the Klipsch Custom series, the PL50s are designed so that they fit in your ear with the cable trailing up and over the outside.

I don't always find this style particularly comfortable, but the lightweight design of the PL50s actually works pretty well, and whereas my Klipsch Custom 2s have an integral, bendable plastic sleeve over the first few inches of the cable that helps support the earphones, SoundMAGIC gives you the option of sticking with the bare cables or fitting a shaped rubber sleeve to keep the earphones in place while you're exercising. Either way, I've found the PL50s very comfortable over periods of an hour or more, and certainly less fiddly to fit than the SE102s or Custom-2s.

In terms of the overall package, the PL50s get a slightly - and only slightly - more luxurious treatment than their cheaper brethren. The packaging is better, and so is what's inside it, with a toughened soft storage pouch, four sizes of silicone tips and three sizes of foam tips. As the PL50s have a one-piece cable, no extension is provided, and you also have to do without niceties like an earwax cleaning tool. Otherwise it's hard to quibble. If you want more goodies, you'll just have to stump up more cash.

To be perfectly honest, build quality still isn't up there with the very best, but the cabling is thicker and less prone to microphonics than that of the PL11s and PL30s, and while I would want to tug the PL50s out of my lug'oles using the cable all that often, they certainly don't feel horrendously fragile. Again, by the standards of rival IEMs at this price point, the PL50s don't have anything to be ashamed of.

And they have absolutely nothing to be ashamed of when it comes to sound quality. In fact, the opposite applies. I'm not going to tell you that the single, balanced armature PL50s will kick sand in the face of your Shure SE310s or send your Klipsch Images running home crying for their mummies, but they definitely sound pretty phenomenal given the sub £60 price. There's enough bass to be getting on with, but it's a much more controlled, articulate bass than you get from the PL11s or PL30s, and its backed up by a well-balanced mid-range and a lovely, clear top-end. Definition is very good across the range, and there's an almost holographic quality to the soundstage at times. In other words, I'm impressed.

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