The SoundMagic E10 earphones are a budget upgrade aimed squarely at taking your listening up a notch from the ultra-cheap sets that come bundled with your mp3 player or phone - and yes we consider the Apple earbuds to be of this calibre. Available for a mere £34, the E10s certainly have the potential to be the perfect birthday gift (we refuse to say Christmas gift quite yet!).
SoundMagic hasn't broken the mould with the design of the E10s. They sport a plain cylindrical driver housing, a downward facing cable, and a selection of silicone tips to get them to fit in your lugholes – there's none of the over ear hooks, moulded driver housings or peculiar ear mounts of some sets.
They claim to have a robust metal design – "feel the charm of metal", the slogan says – but there's little noticeable benefit. At this size, plastic can be as strong as needs be. In fact, despite a metallic sheen, you'd be hard pushed to tell these were metal – they could just as easily be painted plastic. The slightly angular design is inoffensive but neither are they anything special. They really do just look and feel like any old earphone.
In the box you get a choice of small, medium and large single flange silicone rubber tips, or a medium sized double flanged pair. We found the standard medium size tips to be a decent fit but preferred the double flanged ones as they provided that little bit more of a seal as they go in slightly deeper. If you're not a fan of earphones delving too deep into your head, you'll want to stick to the single flange type, which still provide a reasonable improvement in noise isolation and bass response over earbud style 'phones. What's more, all will ensure you don't disturb fellow tube travellers by cranking up your music, unlike leaky earbuds.
You also get a rather oversized drawstring bag for keeping your 'phones safe, while a cable clip comes pre-attached. This is a perfectly acceptable selection for such a modestly priced set of earphones – you simply don't get much at this price.
If you prefer foam tips instead of silicone, HiFiHeadphones.co.uk">HifiHeadphones.co.uk (who supplied our review sample) recommends investing in some Comply Foam Tips T400. Available for £12 for three pairs, we can confirm that they make a world of difference, but we'll talk more about this later.
We're looking at the black and grey E10s but you can also get rather more statement making black with metallic purple, red and yellow. All have black cables with red and blue colour coded rubber sleeves round where the cable meets each driver so you can tell which phone is which (you can also tell by one driver having the SoundMagic logo on the back and the other reads 'E10' – there's no way to tell them apart by feel alone, though). All, that is, except for the red and black versions that instead have red cables and red and black sleeves.
The cable itself is split into two even lengths which join about a quarter of the way down, with the full length of cable being a standard 1.2m. The cable isn't braided, nor does it have a slippery finish. It does have a tendency to get entangled quite easily, and emerged from the box fairly kinked already. But few earphones really manage to avoid this completely.
Thanks to HiFiHeadphones.co.uk for supplying the review sample.