Soundmagic PL30 Review

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Reviewed Jan 2010

Details: Soundmagic’s first widely acknowledged success, the PL30 redefined the attitude towards budget IEMs at Head-Fi
MSRP: approx. $25
Current Price: $24 from amazon.com / $27 from mp4nation.net
Specs: Driver: Dynamic | Imp: 12 Ω | Sens: 100 dB | Freq: 20-22k Hz | Cord: 4’ L-plug (old revision shown)
Nozzle Size: 5.5mm | Preferred tips: Stock Single-flanges, Stock foamies
Wear Style: over-the-ear

Accessories (5/5) – Silicone single-flange (3 sizes, 2 sets), bi-flange, and foam tips, hard clamshell carrying case, cable winder, set of rubber cable guides, and shirt clip
Build Quality (3.5/5) – The PL30 is my oldest fully functional IEM. The plastic shells (rubberized in the black version) are well made and feature proper strain reliefs. Cabling is rubberized and similar to that found on the PL21s but terminates in a simplistic I-plug rather than the L-plug used on the PL21/PL50. The only real (small) flaw I can think of are that the bass knobs can become loose if fiddled with often and the paint rubs off over time
Isolation (1.5/5) – Shallow insertion and a ported design mean that the PL30s don’t shine in isolation
Microphonics (4.5/5) – Pretty much nonexistent. Shirt clip eliminates them entirely
Comfort (4.5/5) – With properly-fitting tips these are some of the most comfortable IEMs out there. Wearing them over-the-ear is a must but they’re light, low-profile, and very easy to forget about

Sound (5.2/10) – The PL30 produce a very pleasant and balanced sound characterized by a slightly forward midrange and a very soft/smooth presentation all around. The low end is tight and accurate, but not particularly impactful. Switching to the bass-heavy setting bumps up the bass very little. Treble is rather tame as well, without a hint of harshness or sibilance (granted my PL30s may have an advantage here in being my oldest working IEM and probably having close to 1k hours on them). The one area where the PL30s undoubtedly triumph over the competition is the lateral width of the soundstage. It is truly massive, beaten only by the Cyclone PR1 Pro under the $100 mark. With the large soundstage comes excellent instrumental separation and good positioning. Another interesting property of the PL30s is the transparency – they are extremely revealing of both source and source material and by far the cheapest IEM that allows me to distinguish between 192k and 320k mp3 files played straight from my Fuze. Worth noting is that the low impedance leads to some very slight hiss with some sources and amps (though the Fuze headphone out remains nearly silent).

Value (8.5/10) – The aging Soundmagic PL30 offers a whole lot of bang for your buck with its stellar accessory pack, lack of microphonics, and comfortable form factor. The sound may not be for everyone – they are quite laid back overall, lack low-end ‘oomph’ and some high-end extension and sparkle, and aren’t particularly forgiving of poor recordings – but for a wide, airy, and well-balanced sound these are unbeatable at their price point.

Pros: Outstanding accessory pack, comfortable form factor, balanced and wide sound
Cons: Can hiss with some sources/amps


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About Author

Living in the fast-paced city of Los Angeles, ljokerl has been using portable audio gear to deal with lengthy commutes for the better part of a decade. He spends much of his time listening to music and occasionally writes portable audio reviews across several enthusiast sites, focusing mostly on in-ear earphones.

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