Headphones come in all shapes and sizes, but for a no-frills pair that are easy to carry and don't put a dent in your bank balance, it's hard to beat a simple pair of earbuds. But with many pairs on the market competing to be the best earbuds, how do you find the pair that's right for you?
One brand that has come to dominate our budget earphones recommendations is SoundMagic. The brand specialises in wallet-friendly headphones, with in-ear pairs something of a speciality. Here we've pitted two of its best earbuds, the SoundMagic E11C and the SoundMagic E80C against each other to see which come out on top, and help you get the best pair of buds for your needs.
SoundMagic E11C vs E80C: price
Both pairs had impressively low price tags to begin with, and both are available for less than their launch price, which is good news for bargain hunters everywhere.
The E80Cs launched at £80 but can now be picked up for £60. The E11Cs are even cheaper. They launched at £50 but can now be had for as little as £40.
**Winner** SoundMagic E11C
SoundMagic E11C vs E80C: build and comfort
SoundMagic might have got rid of the red cable from its headphones, but otherwise the E11Cs look identical to their forebears, with a typical cylindrical, aluminium casing design and a choice of small, medium and large silicone tips, which are also now silver. There’s a storage case, too, which is handy for avoiding cable spaghetti when stashing them in a bag.
On the cable for the left earphone you'll find the remote control and mic. It’s a standard three-button, giving you volume and stop/start functionality. As has become the norm, the remote is light and unobtrusive, so you shouldn’t suffer from unwanted cable noise.
The SoundMagic E80C buds come with more sizing options – almost a dozen are in the box, in fact. This makes it easy to get a good, comfortable seal that gives you the best bass performance while also staying secure in your ears.
The cable is thin but sturdy, and doesn’t twist up even when stuffed into a pocket, or in the supplied hard carry case. The angled 3.5mm jack is a nice touch too, and the metal details give them a sleek look that feels appropriate for the price.
Like the E11Cs, the E80Cs are also now fully compatible with all smartphones (the C stands for ‘Compatibility’). Previous incarnations of the range (such as the E10S/E50S) had a bulky switch that you toggled depending on whether you were using the in-line controls with an Android or Apple smartphone. But now the three-button remote does all the switching automatically, making them much less fussy to use.
SoundMagic E11C vs E80C: sound quality
Clear, solid and open – those are our first impressions of the E80Cs. Instruments and vocals sound loud and clear, and there's a decent amount of detail to go on. The level of organisation is impressive, and there's a high level of solidity running through. But we'd appreciate a more timely and articulate approach – they fall a bit flat compared to similarly-priced rivals, with a brightness that even extensive running in can't quite vanquish.
The E11Cs have a familiar sound – SoundMagic's sonic signature remains firmly intact on this cheaper pair of headphones. The sound is well-balanced, entertaining and energetic, with a decent level of depth and warmth.
Clarity is a particular strong point, though the timing does tend to fall down a little. Still, it's a very impressive performance indeed, with a full-bodied sound led by a clear, upfront treble. It's especially impressive given the budget price.
It’s also worth pointing out the sensitivity rating of 112dB is pretty high, meaning the SoundMagic E11C in-ears can deliver plenty of volume. It also means they’ll use less of your device’s power at average listening volume, which is a bonus.
**Winner** SoundMagic E11C
SoundMagic E11C vs E80C: verdict
The E11Cs have it. They're more affordable, give you more sound-per-pound and provide a nice, comfy fit. Not that the E80Cs are a bad choice, not by a long way. It's just they're getting quite long in the tooth now, and more impressive models have since sprung up at the same price or even cheaper.
If you're looking for the best earbuds at a budget price, the E11Cs are our choice from these two.
Read the full review: SoundMagic E11C
Read the full review: SoundMagic E80C