The SoundMagic E50 are in-ear headphones at a price where buds like these start to get serious. They cost £50, and are essentially a grown-up version of the classic SoundMagic E10. For years, that pair has been widely considered one of the best budget sets you can get.
For the extra £20 you get much-improved sound balance, greater accuracy and less of the bonus bass thickness you get with the cheaper set.
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SoundMagic doesn’t make the most beautiful of headphones. They often get the look a little bit wrong, labelling things too clearly and looking less slick than the sort of designs you get from companies such as Sony.
However, the Soundmagic E50 are a bit better than the SoundMagic standard. They use aluminium shells pretty similar to those of the E10, but have a simple silver and black colour scheme that avoids the awkward-looking blue and red signposting of L/R sides used in some of the company’s other pairs.
They’re still not beauties, but they’re better. The SoundMagic E50 also have an odd cable, with a weaved structure rather than the usual flat style.
Does it make much difference? It's not very tangle-prone, but the cable does cause quite a lot of microphonic noise when the cable brushes up against your clothing.
Of course, microphonic noise is also a sign that your headphones have a pretty good seal with your ears, and that also generally means decent sound isolation. The SoundMagic E50 offer fairly decent isolation, as we expect from a set of IEMs.
What the SoundMagic E50 do a bit different from some rivals is that, as well as a remote, they have a little switch that alters the connection to suit certain phone types that just don’t get along with some remote headphones. We’ve occasionally had problems in the past with Samsung and Windows phones that sound essentially broken when used with some headphones, needing an adapter to fix the issue. No such thing is needed here.
Other than that, though, these are pretty standard earphones. No wireless, no cancellation, no other fancy bits.
The cable is also non-removable, although it’s not often you see a pair of in-ears at this price offer such a cable style.
So far, we’ve not seen many compelling reasons to buy the SoundMagic E50. They’re not beauties, and aside from the compatibility switch, they’re pretty much bog-standard mid-range in-ears.
However, as so often with SoundMagic, it’s the sound that matters. These are among the cheapest headphones to take sound balance and accuracy really seriously, cutting out the low-frequency and mid-range bloat that’s poured over so many lower-cost headphones like custard on apple pie.
The SoundMagic E50 are, for the price, remarkably well-balanced earphones. It’s clear that serious work has gone into their tuning, pulling from a single dynamic driver the sort of tone we hear more often from balanced armature headphones. This is another kind of driver, one that generally appears in more expensive, more "hi-fi" pairs.
These are very measured-sounding, with no obvious spikes in the bass or treble. As such they’re the perfect introduction to the dangerously-addictive world of hearphones if you don’t want to spend a good idea of cash on a multi-driver set.
Of course, this also means they’re a bit lower on thrills than some. We like the bass as it’s very well integrated and doesn’t bloom out at all, but its presence is relatively subtle. If you’re after rib-rattling bass, stay away. They are also not very warm, and may sound a little clinical and ‘small’ compared with the bassier Sennheiser CX 3.00 and CX 5.00 you might find more often on the high street.
They don’t try to charm your ears with the musical equivalent of melted chocolate either. While there’s no sense of particular harshness to the sound, it lacks a little softer-touch refinement, particularly in the mid-range. They don’t try to charm your ears with whatever you’re listening to – music is delivered as a matter-of-fact statement that comes across as sticking to a certain set of sound principle, not what might make you enjoy the music the most.
If that sounds like nonsense, think of it like this: these are not ear candy headphones, so if you want smooth-as-silk sounds, you may be better off with something a little more complementary. Funnily enough, SoundMagic actually released a slightly less rigorous version of this same ideal a few years ago, with the pretty terrific SoundMagic E30. They’re ultimately slightly less serious, but smoother-sounding headphones. Look around and you should still be able to find a pair.
Are we doing the Soundmagic E50 down? Not at all. They're corkers, just make sure you're up for its style, which works best with "active" listening and isn't quite as easy on the ear as a warmer, more forgiving pair.
The SoundMagic E50 are headphones to look for if you want to stay away from the cheap tricks of other entry-level or mid-range headphones in favour of something a bit more serious, grounded and accurate.
If you find most headphones and earphones too bassy, and don’t like an overly warm sound, these are for you. They also make a good step forwards if you’re a SoundMagic E10 owner after something a little more accurate.
However, they’re not for everyone. Listening side-by-side with the Sennhesier CX 5.00, the low-warmth E50 can sound a little narrow and non-expressive.
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Accurate earphones for those after serious sound who are willing to trade away cheap thrills.