Founded in 2005, a relative flash in the pan compared to many audio companies, SoundMagic has risen from obscurity to boasting multiple award winners, most notably with its budget in-ear headphone range.
And the SoundMagic E11C headphones are another pair that has gained a multitude of plaudits. They launched back in 2018, but in 2023 we’re happy to report they’re still pretty magic and our pick as the best affordable wired in-ear headphones.
Build and comfort
Clearly not scared of spicing up a winning recipe, the SoundMagic E11C earbuds have an updated driver, which promises improvements to the sound, and a new, silver-plated copper cable. The iconic red headphone cable is no more.
Otherwise, the E11C earphones look the same, with a typical cylindrical, aluminium casing design and a choice of small, medium and large silicone tips, also now in silver. There’s a storage case, too, should you be so organised as to use one of them. In case it now needs stating, they have the standard 3.5mm headphone cable connection, so you’ll need a dreaded dongle for connecting to USB-C or Apple Lightning ports.
On the cable for the left earphone are the remote control and mic. It’s a standard three-button that should work with Apple and Android phones, 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.
SoundMagic may have updated the driver but the company’s sonic signature remains familiar. Simply, the E11C sound really good. Make sure you choose the right tips for your ears – you should get a snug fit that not only isolates outside noise really well but ensures you hear their full sonic spectrum – and then you’re treated to a well-balanced, entertaining, energetic sound.
Listen to Drake’s God’s Plan and the deep, sub bass notes hit as they should, with decent depth and warmth, while the hi-hats tick along clearly at the top end. Drake’s processed vocals sit comfortably in the midrange, again clarity is a strength from these in-ears. Aphex Twin’s T69 Collapse proves a more challenging workout but thanks to a crisp, not-quite-too-bright treble, the track’s energetic drums are delivered with life and control.
In-line mic/remote Yes
3.5mm connector Yes
Cable length 1.2m
A 4/4 dance track is always a good test of timing and Algol by Troy is no-nonsense pounder, complete with off-beat stabs to keep things interesting. The SoundMagic E11C earphones again deliver an enjoyable listen and only in direct comparison to the What Hi-Fi? Award-winning Beyerdynamic Byron earphones does the timing fall down just a fraction, the Byrons sounding a little more together and thus delivering a more engaging sound.
This is about the only small hole to be picked in the E11C in-ears. Their full-bodied sound is certainly led by a clear, upfront treble, while the Byrons deliver a tauter sound with a bit more solidity to the bass, but this is largely personal preference.
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.
Another great pair of SoundMagic budget earphones, the E11C in-ears continue the fine work of their predecessors and deliver an entertaining, upfront sound, complete with a remote control and mic. And we can’t argue with that.
- Sound 5
- Comfort 5
- Build 5
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