‘Jump to the Bass’: probably the first thing you’ll read on the Pioneer SE-E721’s web page, and it's an indication of the company’s approach to their sound.
Part of its ‘Bass Head’ range (inspired by its roots in DJ headphones), these buds promise deep bass; fitting for music to work out to, perhaps.
Low-end grunt is abundant: the bassline in Shaggy’s What’s Love is snappy and controlled, extending to a depth you wouldn’t necessarily expect at this price. Play something as bassy as Daft Punk’s beat-driven Derezzed (from the Tron: Legacy soundtrack), and they still don’t disappoint.
It’s well judged, not overpowering, though, so bass junkies might not get their fix. Its body, balance and detail make for a very listenable sound. Vocals have clarity and focus, and are conveyed with a pleasing fullness. Competition is fierce, though, and the SE-E721s learn this the hard way.
They aren’t as attacking as the Monster iSport Strive or Soul Electronics Flex, and you don’t always get the sense they’re throwing their all into more exuberant songs. Ultimately, we find them too easy-going – especially for ‘sports’ headphones.
If you rely on music for motivation, we’d look to punchier, more musical buds. We’d like more openness in the presentation too; instruments can feel confined, lacking space and separation – something made more apparent in poorer quality files.
Flick through some MP3 songs and the electric guitars that swamp Suede’s Killing of a Flashboy feel mashed into one. As expected, CD-quality and (to a greater extent) high-res WAVs fare notably better, and pull through with slightly more cleanliness and clarity.
Build and design
Move away from sound and we find ourselves torn between praising their secure, comfy fit and criticising sub-par functionality. The tips nuzzle inside your ear tightly, and the hangers – coated with elastomer for springiness – make them pretty immovable.
Though slightly bigger and bulkier than most, the hangers feel lighter than they look when mounted, and are a snug fit. They should get on with all ear sizes, too, thanks to Pioneer’s ‘Active Fit’ design: a roller ball mechanism fixing the buds to the hangers that let the bud rotate for adjustment.
Thankfully, they don’t roll around when you’re in the saddle. Move south and the cable is coiled near the buds so they can be easily tied, say, behind your neck. There’s no case, but that’s just as well – the cable is prone to tangles, so we’d hang them over something when not in use.
Their real weak spot is the absence of a remote and mic for hands-free calls and playback operations – at this price, we would expect these features. And while the Pioneers are sweat-protected, they aren’t immune from wet weather or a quick wash.
We can’t help but think of the SE-E721s as a half-hearted effort from Pioneer. They get the basics right: sound is pretty decent for the price and comfort is as good as any. But ultimately, they’re a few features short of fully-functional sports headphones.