If you're after a pair of budget earphones and SoundMagic isn't on your list of headphone makers to check out, it should be. Its SoundMagic E10 earphones were some of our favourites from last year, and the E30 are set to make a similar impression. Audiophile-grade sound for under £40? You betcha.
The initial impression the SoundMagic E30 earphones make isn't so great, though. They are carefully-designed in some respects, but they aren't exactly pretty.
A mix of curved shapes and much sharper angles, all relayed in cheap-looking glossy plastic and similarly-plastic silver trim elements, they have a dose of that SoundMagic special sauce. Unfortunately, the SoundMagic sauce tastes a bit… funky, and not in the Bootsy Collins sense. We're also not fans of the company's tendency to advertise loudly whether a bud is the left or right channel using red and blue markers - at the cable join here. Put simply, it just doesn't look good.
Of course, being small earphones, these design quirks are completely innocuous once they're jammed in your ears. The earpieces are petite, and did not stick out beyond the ears at all.
Unlike the SoundMagic E10, the E30 are designed to be worn over your ears, and along with a generous selection of tips you get a pair of rubber ear hooks. These house the cable and track around you earlobes, helping to keep them in place and getting rid of cable noise caused when then the wire makes contact with your clothing. As such, hooked earphones like these are good gym buddies, providing noise isolation from whatever trance-hiphop guff is being pumped out of the place's sound system.
However, some people hate wearing earphones this way, and the E30 cable can be left hanging down straight from your ears if you prefer.
Worn this way, they don't feel the most secure IEMs we've ever tried, but the small, light earpieces stayed in happily enough while walking. This is helped by the decent selection of rubber tips included. The standard array of single-flange silicone tips is here, in three sizes, and you also get a pair of dual-flange tips, not included with the E10.
Aside from these basics, a carry case and cable clip come in the box too. All that's missing here is a pair of Comply foamies, but that's a bit too much to expect of a £40 set.
The SoundMagic E30 cable has a bog-standard lightly-rubberised finish, avoiding the slightly gimmicky feel of braided or flat cabling. It does use two bits of armour to increase strength, though. At the jack end and where the two earphone cables meet are two little tubes of silvery metal, there to reinforce the cable material. Also of note, the shorter cables coming out of the earpieces come mostly fused out of the box, letting you choose how separated they are - and we thought no one did that any more…