I bought my son these as part of his his christmas this year... superb sound for the money... he's over the moon using them with his ipod 32GB (yet another item bought going by the what hifi write-up
These are among the best in-ear phones I have ever tried!
I actually got these based on the reviews in "What hi-fi" - and I was in for a surprise: they are even better than described!
I was immediately impressed by the balanced but very hearty bass response (and it is tweakable!), the HUGE headroom, and the smooth frequency response that allows me to listen to my favorite music for hours with no "ear fatigue" which is typically the result of unbalanced "nasal" sound profile (very typical of many in-ear-phones).
Add to that a very cool design, and a cool carrying case - and you get a great pair of phones for a paultry price. Highly recommended!
Let me start by saying that I get through headphones like they're going out of fashion. To me, in ear headphones suffer from one or more of these fundamental problems:
1. They don't fit very well
2. They fall out of your ear if you're doing anything more energetic than a gentle stroll
3. The cable is too short or too long, is too rubbery, or flimsy, or transmits loads of noise into your ears while you move about
4. The drivers aren't very efficient and something like an iPod just won't deliver enough volume for them to be enjoyable
5. They leak sound and annoy everyone around you (if you're still using standard iPod earphones, please throw them away now)
6. They just plain don't sound very good or cost far too much money to sound even half decent.
Thankfully the SoundMagic PL30s don't suffer any of these problems. If I can make even the slightest criticism it's that the cable, having a slightly rubbery coating can ensure they're a bit of a pain to untangle when you've bunched them up and put them in your gym bag. That's a minor niggle though.
These need a good few hours to run in. I've had mine now for around 2 months and I'm convinced they're still getting better. Out of the packaging the sound is a little constrained but they're still a world better than the Sony MDR-EX71's or the Sennheiser CX300s or the Goldrings, or the AKGs they've replaced. The bass is tight, punchy and tuneful, not overblown, not over-loud, not boomy, just right. They have great insight into recordings, excellent focus, bags and bags of detail and will keep you listening for hours without the slightest sense of fatigue. They are the closest things I have heard to Shure SE-220s without having to spend that sort of money (plus you can get these for �20 if you shop around).
For gym use, they're better than the SE-220s which had a tendency to transmit all of your movements through the cable up to your ears. The SoundMagics don't do that. The supplied rubber over-the-ear cable guide is very useful for when you're out jogging and stops the earbuds from falling out of your ear - you completely forget they are there after a couple of minutes, they are that comfortable. There's also a small crocodile clip which you can fasten to your top to stop the cable from pulling away at your ears. All very nicely thought out.
There are multiple shapes, sizes and types of earbud attachment included from the standard small rubber inserts to larger ear-plug type buds that you squeeze before inserting into the ear canal. These form a very good fit and give the best sound too. No sound is leaked no matter which buds you use though.
They're also very sensitive. Whereas my old Sonys had to be fed with maximum volume from my iPod touch to just about be acceptable, I get the same volume from the SoundMagics on nearly half of that, so there's plenty of headroom here.
For the money, I can't recommend them enough. They fit great, they sound great and they're cheap. What more could you want. I'm intrigued to know what the What Hi-Fi guys think beats them as there doesn't seem to be anything in the recommended list that competes.
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